Before the U.S. Supreme Court could decide whether or not it would hear arguments on the case, Marvel and the heirs of comics legend Jack Kirby have reportedly settled their years-long dispute out of court.
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history,” is all the parties had to say in a joint statement released to Deadline.
In spite of years of rulings that have almost always favored Marvel and DC, the Kirby case had attracted a lot of attention in part because Kirby had been with the company for so long, and been so key to its early success, that it was more difficult for Marvel's counsel to argue that he knew what he was getting into. The possibility of success by Kirby would also have set a precedent that would make it easier for more writers and artists to file similar suit.
The Kirby heirs were asking the Court to rule in favor of their assertion that they had the right in 2009 to issue dozens of termination notices to Marvel and others on the artist’s characters under the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. That Act changed copyright law in the U.S., extending protections for existing copyrights but also allowing those who originated a work and then signed it away later to recover their share of the copyright at the end of what would have been the duration of the copyright under previous law. The estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster have been involved in similar litigation over rights to Superman for years.
Marvel sued to halt the termination notices in 2010, after failing to reach an agreement with the Kirby family.