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Marvel Faces The Heirs Of Their Authors For Control Of Superheroes

The entente Marvel / Disney has built the most profitable franchise of all time, and the one that today is capable of generating the most money and conversation. It is perhaps for this reason that, with the corresponding omnipresence in today’s media and due to a series of very irregular practices, it suffers from time to time setbacks in relation to the public image and the way of relating to its artists.

The lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson against the House of the Mouse on account of the salary by Black Widow (allegedly compromised by the decision to give it a hybrid premiere on Disney +) is just one of the open fronts, since the Marvel leadership does not stop face questions about the ownership of your characters.

In recent months, various criticisms have taken shape of the way in which Kevin Feige’s machine treats its authors, especially because of the low remuneration they receive while their characters and stories earn millions of dollars in audiovisuals. The case of Ed Brubaker is notorious: the creator of the Winter Soldier has been very vocal about the marginalization he has suffered (extended to a total absence of profits due to the appearance of his character in the saga of Captain America and the subsequent Falcon and the Winter Soldier), and to this history of conflicts, we must now add the threat of termination of the contract raised by the heirs of the creators of such indispensable headers as Spider-Man, Thor, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange.

Still from ‘Black Widow’
According to The Hollywood Reporter , these heirs have claimed copyright for the aforementioned characters, filing dozens of notices in the US Copyright Office. If the measure takes effect, Disney would not lose ownership of these characters. , but it would have to pay a large sum to the plaintiffs, so that the study has already launched a defense and has erected Daniel Petrocelli (the same one who handles the Johansson case) as the lead lawyer for it. Petrocelli faces Marc Toberoff , representative of the plaintiffs who has previously been involved in similar litigation on behalf of the estates of Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel or Joe Schuster.

Precisely based on what happened with Kirby (whose copyrights were unsuccessfully claimed by Patrick S. Dikto ) Petrocelli is promoting his defense, since Marvel argues that there is no valid right and that all the characters were created in terms of “work custom ” . When Toberoff and the Kirby heirs claimed copyright, the courts ended up agreeing with Marvel, and this is exactly what Petrocelli hopes will happen with these new threats of termination. “Since these are commissioned works and therefore the property of Marvel, we confirm that the termination notices are not valid and have no legal effect,” said Petrocelli.

On the contrary, Toberoff’s team replies that these characters were not developed under the commission, but that the authors were freelancers who gave a work protected by copyright to the publisher while it was adhering to outdated regulations. “At the center of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of ‘commissioned work’ under the Copyright Law of 1909, which must be rectified,” said Toberoff, then referring to what happened with Kirby’s inheritance. “At that time they asked me if I regretted not having corrected this legal injustice, and I did. I answered then that there would be similar cases again, and here we are ”.

Toberoff represents Larry Lieber ( Stan Lee’s brother and co-creator of Thor, Iron Man and Ant-Man) in parallel to the assets of the aforementioned Dikto (Spider-Man and Doctor Strange), Don Heck (Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye ), Don Rico (Black Widow) and Gene Colan (Captain Marvel, Falcon and Blade). For now, the Petrocelli team has already filed five counterclaims in which it is requested that the court declare that its copyright is valid, without demanding compensation from Toberoff for damages and prejudices.

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