Disney’s Marvel unit is suing to hold onto full control of Avengers characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, Thor, and others.
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.
Last month, 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.
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