Marvel Is Suing Its Creators To Retain Superhero Rights

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Walt Disney Co. and Marvel on Friday sued Larry Lieber, who helped create characters like Iron Man, Thor and Ant-Man, as well as the estates of several other artists, including Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko and Black Widow co-creator Donald L. Heck. Marvel, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, filed the suit against the heirs of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan and others to avoid losing copyright control over iconic characters such as Iron Man and Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and many others. Lawrence D. Lieber is 89, a writer hired by Marvel in 1958 to write stories with characters such as Iron Man (Thor), Ant-Man and the younger brother of the late Stan Lee. His work for Marvel formed the basis of much of Marvel’s success and is one of the most recognizable faces to the public.

Disney is suing the families of Marvel legends Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Don Rico, Don Heck, Larry Lieber and Gene Colan to prevent them from claiming copyrights to a slew of Marvel characters, including Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Ant-man, Hawkeye, Thor and Black Widow. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel and Disney are suing the estates of former Marvel employees such as Lee, Ditto and Colan to retain the rights to the characters they created and edited at the company. The newspaper reports that Marvel has filed five lawsuits against the family of legendary comic book artists such as Ditkos, Colans and Lees, claiming that the superheroes they created are not entitled to termination of copyright because they were created as contract workers.

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On October 10, 2012, SLMIs sued the Walt Disney Company, currently the owner of Marvel, in Colorado for billions of dollars for the rights to Marvel characters and that Walt Disney Co. never recorded its agreement with Lee in the US. Walt Disney Co. sued the families of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics on Friday to invalidate a termination of their copyright to Disney after the company filed several lawsuits in federal courts in New York and California. While it may seem strange to name a connection between Marvel and Stan Lee without mentioning other comic book writers by name, The Hollywood Reporter reports that the iconic comic book families are suing Disney to retain control of its flagship characters such as Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Ant-Man, Thor, Falcon and others.

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On 15 March 2007, Nesfield, representing the shareholders of Stan Lee Media Inc. of Colorado (SLMI), successor company to Stan Lee’s Media, filed a $5 billion lawsuit in New York against Marvel Entertainment. Lee’s assignment of his creative rights to SLMI made SLMI the co-owner of the characters created by Lee for Marvel. According to Walt Disney Co., several legendary comic book artists, together with the Marvel estates of several other artists, have notified Disney over the years themselves that they have ended Marvel’s rights to characters such as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Black Widow. Dear, Ditko, Colan and Rico’s estate filed several lawsuits over the summer claiming they had cancelled their copyrights to Marvel and its parent company Disney Comics, which had written them.

THR reports that Marvel owner Disney has filed a lawsuit against the cancellation of the Copyright filed by the families of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan and other creators of some of his iconic characters. Disney filed the lawsuit after the family of the Marvel legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Don Rico, Don Heck, Larry Lieber and Gene Colan received a copyright notice claiming that the rights to Marvel characters should fall to the heirs of the creators. Marvel is sue Dear and Ditko’s and Heck’s estates in federal court in Manhattan, Colan in federal court in Brooklyn and Rico in federal court in Los Angeles, asking the court to invalidate the various communications this summer claiming that Marvel and its parent company Disney are depriving them of the copyrights to the comics they compiled.

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Lieber and Steve Ditko’s estate assert that under copyright law they have the right to apply for termination of their rights, which allows authors and their heirs to recover a work granted by a publisher after a certain period of time. Marvel, which filed its lawsuit under the name Marvel Characters, Inc., says in court documents that Dear has no legal rights to the characters they worked on along with other workers who worked and were hired by them. The dispute is reminiscent of the closely watched earlier case of Toberoff, who represented the heirs of Jack Kirby, the creator of many famous Marvel heroes, in their battle for comic book rights.

Relatives of Steve Ditko and other creators of Marvel Comics are asking the court to declare that Disney, which owns Marvel, owns only the comics The Avengers, Iron Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, Strange Tales and Tales of Suspense that contain characters and story elements that form the basis of the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe at Disney. Dan Petrocelli of OMelveny, who represents Disney in its efforts to retain the rights to various Avengers characters, has filed several lawsuits against Lieber, Don Heck, Patrick DItko, Don Rico and Keith Dettwiler in New York and California. The estate of Marvel artist Jack Kirby, who worked with Stan Lee, Ditto and Dear, lost the copyright lawsuit.

 

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