The Walt Disney Company is suing former Marvel Comics authors and illustrators who are attempting to reclaim rights to characters and stories they created over decades ago.
The company is suing the families of Steve Ditko and other Marvel Comics artists in order to protect ownership of legendary characters such as Iron Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Black Widow.
The lawsuits, covered earlier today by The Hollywood Reporter says the cases were filed in New York and California earlier today against the heirs of Steve Ditko, Don Rico, Don Heck, and Gene Colan, as well as Stan Lee’s brother and Marvel colleague Lawrence Lieber. They urge the courts to declare that Disney owns The Avengers, Iron Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Strange Tales, and Tales of Suspense, as well as the characters and plot elements that have served as the foundation for Disney’s profitable Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The report further stated that the lawsuits come after Lieber and others issued termination notices in an attempt to recover a portion of the rights to several Marvel characters. They are an attempt to prevent any lawsuit that may emerge as a consequence of the notifications.
“Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect.”Dan Petrocelli, the attorney representing Marvel in the case, reiterated the company’s argument in an emailed statement.
This ain’t the first time the artists have fought for the rights. Artists and authors, as well as their families, have been involved in several legal fights over the ownership of renowned comic book characters. The initiatives have had mixed results.
In 2014, Disney and the children of Marvel legend Jack Kirby resolved a dispute in which an appeals court ruled in favor of Disney, ruling that Kirby had worked for hire. The same year, an appeals court upheld DC parent company Warner Bros’ win versus Superman co-creator Joe Shuster’s family.
In the instance of Marvel, the comics’ publisher has highlighted its collaborative “Marvel Method” as an argument in its favor, claiming that it makes assigning ownership to a particular author or artist impossible.