Marvel filed five lawsuits on Friday seeking to prevent comic book makers and their successors from taking over copyright control of key characters such as Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.
The heirs of several Marvel writers have taken this step after submitting dozens of termination notices to the U.S. Copyright Office, trying to terminate Marvel’s licenses for the characters.
In the lawsuits, Marvel argues that the characters were created under the “work for rent” arrangement and that the heirs have no legitimate claim to copyright.
Marvel points to an important case of Jack Carby, who co-created “The X-Men,” “Thor” and “Iron Man”. In that case, Kirby’s heirs wanted to reclaim the copyright of his creations, but the federal court was in favor of Marvel, seeing that the characters were created under renting arrangements for the work.
Led by Marvel’s lawyer, Daniel Petroselli, the lawsuits present “virtually identical situations.”
Marvel has filed lawsuits against Lawrence de Lieber, Patrick S. Ditko, Michelle Hart-Rico and Buzz Donato Rico III, Keith A. Detweiler, and Nancy Solo and Eric Colan.
Ditko is the brother of Spider-Man and Steve Ditko, co-creator of Doctor Strange. Solo and Colan are the children of Jean Cullen, co-creator of Falcon and Captain Marvel. Detweiler is the nephew of Iron Man and Don Heck, co-producer of Black Widow. Hart-Rico and Rico III are the heirs of Don Rico, who co-created Black Widow. Liber is Stan Lee’s brother, but filed a termination notice on his behalf for the work he did for Marvel in 1962-64.
Under the Copyright Act 1976, heirs are allowed, under certain circumstances, to issue a license or transfer a copyrighted work – such as a comic book – through a properly executed notice.
Patrick S. Notification of its completion gives Marvel a 2023 deadline.
Nancy Solo and Eric Colan have given Marvel notice of the completion of dozens of comic books, including “Marvel Super-Heroes” Volume 1, # 12, which includes Captain Marvel’s first appearance and dozens of early versions of “Captain America” comics, where Falcon first appeared.
There is an ongoing debate about how comic makers have been unfairly paid to inspire the creation of cinematic juggernauts.
When Ditko died in 2018, reports said that despite being a co-creator of one of the world’s most famous comic book characters, his property was worth only ১ 1. িয়ন 8 million.
This is a practice that continues to this day. Ed Brubecker, who created many of the stories used in “Captain America: Civil War” – including the character in “The Winter Soldier” starring Sebastian Stan – talked about how he was treated by Marvel earlier this year. The terms of the additional compensation (which he proposed were disgusting as insulting) and at the film’s premiere, where he was forced to appear in an “overflow” theater opposite the film’s cast and Marvel executives.
He told Kevin Smith in his “Fatman Beyond” podcast, “I created more SAG remnants than I did in creating the character.”
However, comic makers are facing a final battle trying to recover copyright. In 2012, a federal court ruled that Superman co-creator Joe Schuster’s sister could not finish Warner Bros. Copyright grants to the character due to a 1992 agreement between the studio and Schuster’s heirs, which hindered their completion.
The exact nature of how the efforts of Ditko and Colan’s successors will stop will similarly depend on what agreements they and their predecessors have made with Marvel and whether they are subject to the Copyright Act.
A spokesman for Patrick S. Ditko said the family would not comment. A Marvel spokesman declined to comment.