Marvel Holds Avengers Characters From Copyright Termination

Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, and other Avengers characters are being sued by Disney's Marvel division.

Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, and other Avengers characters are being sued by Disney’s Marvel division.

The lawsuits are filed against the heirs of late comic book legends Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Gene Colan. The lawsuits seek a declaration that these well-known characters are not eligible for copyright termination as works for hire. If Marvel loses, Disney will be relinquishing control of characters worth billions of dollars.

Spider-Man was originally published in comic book form in 1962, and the administrator of Ditko’s estate filed a notice of termination on the character last month. After waiting a specified length of time, writers or their heirs can regain rights given to publishers under copyright law’s termination clauses. Marvel will lose rights to its renowned figure in June 2023, according to the termination notification.

Marc Toberoff, who notably defended Superman founders Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in a failed termination effort against DC, is representing Ditko.

DC avoided being fired by filing a complaint against Toberoff, alleging tortious interference with its rights. Dan Petrocelli of O’Melveny represented the publisher, who also happens to be defending Disney in its battle to preserve the rights to several Avengers characters.

Petrocelli has filed five cases against Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Patrick Ditko, Don Rico, and Keith Dettwiler in various jurisdictions. The lawsuits will center on the development of well-known comic book characters and whether or not they should be considered works for hire. If this is the case, the publisher is considered the statutory author.

The lawsuit is expected to center on the “Marvel Method,” a loose collaborative working environment in which basic concepts were quickly discussed with artists in charge of the specifics. The Marvel Method has been the subject of previous legal battles, including one over “Ghost Rider” a decade ago.

It will happen again. “Marvel has the authority to exert creative control over [Stan Lee’s] contributions and paid [Stan Lee] a per-page rate for his work,” according to one of the lawsuits filed today (read it here).

He defended the estate of comic book great Jack Kirby over a decade ago in a dispute over whether he could revoke a copyright grant on Spider-Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, and The Mighty Thor. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a lower court judgment in August 2013 that concluded Kirby’s heirs couldn’t reclaim their portion of the characters’ rights since the former Marvel freelancer had supplied his materials as a work for hire.

The Kirby case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, with the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressing interest in hearing it. Marvel battled hard against any high court review at the time, and the matter was resolved before the justices ruled. Source THR.


Brynn Deon is a freelancer and a Content Writer for Maxblizz. Joined the team maxblizz on July 2021. Brynn was interested in the journalism and media industry. brian also has Expertise in SEO. Brynn also has worked in the film industry for almost 3 years in the United States. Reach Brynn at

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