Disney filed a lawsuit Friday to remain in control of Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, Thor, Black Widow, Ant-Man, and more.
The Hollywood Reporter obtained copies of the complaints filed in both California and New York against the heirs of some of the original creators’ heirs. It includes the heirs of comic legends like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Gene Colan.
The suit claims that the works belong to Marvel and not the original creators or their heirs and are ineligible for copyright termination as works made for fire. If Disney loses the lawsuit, the company would be forced to share ownership of the characters.
The artists, or their descendants, had previously filed for copyright termination. In the complaints filed by Disney, attorney Daniel Petrocelli cited a previous case where the court sided with Marvel against Jack Kirby.
Kirby’s descendants tried to reclaim the copyright to his works, including X-Men, Thor, and Iron Man. The court ruled that the characters had been created as a work for hire, and Marvel controlled the rights.
The Kirby case was then petitioned up to the Supreme Court. However, it was settled before the court decided whether or not to review the case.
According to Marvel, the artists were paid on a “per-page rate” and “did not obtain any ownership interest” of their creations.
Marc Toberoff represents the descendants of the comic book creators. He previously represented Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Toberoff led an unsuccessful copyright termination attempt against DC.