The estate of the late Stanley “Stan Lee” Lieber and Steve Ditko are being sued for their rights over the characters they created for Marvel. The Disney company wants Marvel to have sole ownership of the rights for their creations. These include big names like The Hulk, The Avengers, Iron Man, and more.
The estates of other creators like Gene Colan and more are also part of the lawsuit. The move is to avoid losing control of the characters they made during their time at Marvel.
In an article by the Hollywood Reporter, they’re saying that Marvel is seeking to dismiss the claim of these estates. The studio is saying the company made the characters and stories on a work-for-hire basis back in the day.
The dispute started back in August when several estates filed for notice of termination. By US copyright law, creators and their heirs have the right to reclaim their creations after a specific time period. The termination would take into effect June 2023.
Marvel is also pointing at a precedent with a former case with Jack Kirby’s estate. In the original lawsuit with Kirby’s estate in 2009, the summary judgment came in favor of Marvel both at court level and the Second Circuit. The estate forwarded the lawsuit to the Supreme Court, which resulted in a settlement between parties.
“Marvel editorial staff had the right to exercise creative control over Lieber’s contributions, and Marvel paid Lieber a per-page rate for his contributions,” said the lawsuit. “When Lieber worked for Marvel, he did so with the expectation that Marvel would pay him. Lieber did not obtain any ownership interest in or to any contributions he made.”
Several estates are asking for a termination notice for the rights of their creations. These not only include Stan Lee and Steve Ditko but also Gene Colan, Larry Lieber, and even Don Heck. These estates represent most of the characters present in the Avengers and many Marvel Cinematic Universe titles.
There’s a good chunk of money involved in the lawsuit, mostly due to the success of the MCU. A protracted lawsuit should be in favor of the estates, which will likely lead to a settlement. It’s interesting to note that the estates have the same representation as to the original Jack Kirby lawsuit, which is Marc Toberoff.
The estate of Stan Lee and the rest of the estates may get a piece of the copyright – something companies hate. Marvel is seeking reprieve with a declaration that the IPs are theirs.
Featured image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment/Youtube Screenshot
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