Marvel Suing To Block Copyrights Of Characters From Going To Heirs

Five major lawsuits filed will decide future ownership of characters including Spider-Man and Iron Man.


Disney's Marvel unit has filed five lawsuits in hopes of retaining full control and ownership of Avengers characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, Thor, and others. News of these filings was first reported by The New York Times.

The litigation is a counter move after heirs of several Marvel authors filed dozens of termination notices with the U.S. Copyright Office, seeking to end Marvel's licenses to the characters. However, Marvel argues that the characters were created under "work for hire" arrangements, meaning that the heirs would have no valid claim to the copyrights.

In the filing, Marvel draws a parallel to a case involving Jack Kirby, who co-created The X-Men, Thor, and Iron Man. Kirby's heirs similarly sought to reclaim copyright to his creations, but the federal courts sided with Marvel, finding that the characters were created under work-for-hire arrangements. Marvel's lawyers, led by Daniel Petrocelli, say these cases present "virtually identical circumstances."

If Marvel loses, Disney would be legally required to share ownership of characters worth billions. As The Hollywood Reporter also notes, these lawsuits only apply to rights in the United States--Disney would still continue to control and profit from foreign exploitation of these intellectual properties.

Meanwhile, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to march along. The Eternals, which will release in theaters on November 5, is set to be a more approachable point of entry to Phase 4--and is also poised to have a major impact on the future of the MCU.

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