Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Other Estates Issue Statement Regarding Marvel Lawsuit

UPDATE: This story previously said a previous lawsuit between the estate of Jack Kirby and Marvel Entertainment was about to be heard by the United States Supreme Court in 2014. The Supreme Court, however, was only researching the case as a potential inclusion on its case slate for its 2014 term. The full story appears below.

As it turns out, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow lawsuit is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legal woes Disney is set to face in the coming months. Friday, news began to spread of ongoing legal battles between the House of Mouse and the estates for several of Marvel's most prominent comic creators. Now, the lawyer for the aforementioned estates has issued a statement clarifying what the group hopes to accomplish through its latest round of lawsuits.

Through a statement obtained by Deadline, attorney Marc Toberoff — the attorney representing Larry Lieber and the estates of Steve Ditko, don heck, Don Rico, and Gene Colan — expressed regret in not following through on similar IP cases in the past.

"At the core of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of 'work-made-for-hire' under the 1909 Copyright Act that needs to be rectified," the attorney says in his statement. "We had tremendous support from the artistic community, the former Register of Copyrights, the former Trademark Commissioner, all the Guilds (WGA, SAG, DGA), PEN America, and 237 artists, including a dozen Pulitzer winners. The Kirby case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which showed keen interest, at which point Disney settled. At the time, I was asked whether I regretted not righting the legal injustice to creators – which I indeed did. I responded that there would be other such cases."

Toberoff represented the estate of Jack Kirby in a landmark IP case from 2010 through 2014, a trial once being considered to be heard by the United States Supreme Court until Disney opted to settle out of court with the estate. As a result of that case, Kirby is now credited as the creator of his respective characters in any film or television shows they appear in.

Disney is being represented by outside counsel Daniel Petrocelli. "Any contributions Steve Ditko made to the Works were done at Marvel's expense because Marvel paid Steve Ditko a per-page rate for his contributions, Steve Ditko made those contributions to the Works with the expectation that Marvel would pay him, and Steve Ditko did not obtain any ownership interest in or to his contributions," Petrocelli told the trade.

The largest characters at the root of the lawsuit include Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Falcon, and Blade.

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