Disney’s lawyers are currently working overtime following a series of termination notices that could jeopardize the media juggernaut’s ownership of key Avengers characters such as Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Thor.
The notices stem from various heirs of legendary comic creators such as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who are leveraging the termination provisions of copyright law to reclaim the rights to these lucrative characters. Considering the amount of money involved, it’s no surprise that Disney is doing everything in its power to prevent this from happening.
From The Hollywood Reporter:
The complaints, which The Hollywood Reporter has obtained, come against the heirs of some late comic book geniuses including Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan. The suits seek declaratory relief that these blockbuster characters are ineligible for copyright termination as works made for hire. If Marvel loses, Disney would have to share ownership of characters worth billions.
In August, the administrator of Ditko’s estate filed a notice of termination on Spider-Man, which first appeared in comic book form in 1962. Under the termination provisions of copyright law, authors or their heirs can reclaim rights once granted to publishers after waiting a statutory set period of time. According to the termination notice, Marvel would have to give up Ditko’s rights to its iconic character in June 2023.
The heirs are being represented by Marc Toberoff, the intellectual property attorney who’s best known for representing Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in their fight against Warner Bros. and DC Comics over the original copyrights to Superman. DC ultimately prevailed over Toberoff in that case.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter