Marvel has filed suit today to keep the rights to many of its characters, including those from the Avengers films, such as Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, Thor, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, and others.
The suit filed includes complaints against the heirs of the late Stan Lee, Gene Colan, and Steve Ditko. Disney hopes to win the suit, but if it isn’t able to do so, its Marvel division will have to share the rights of the Avengers characters, and that means sharing billions of dollars in revenue that the Avengers have raked in over the years.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, which obtained copies of documents related to the suit filed, Disney is seeking “declaratory relief.” In other words, the entertainment powerhouse wants a judge to declare that the Avengers characters are not able to have Disney’s copyrights removed, as “works made for hire.”
Spider-Man made his comic book debut in 1962. Under copyright law, there are certain termination provisions that allow authors, or the heirs of those authors, to reclaim the rights that may have been given to publishers. Under the law, this can happen after a certain waiting period. In August, the administrator that oversees Steve Ditko’s estate filed a termination notice related to Spider-Man.
If Disney does nothing, Marvel will relinquish its rights to Spider-Man in less than 2 years: in June, 2023.
Spider-Man is only one of the Marvel characters Disney risks losing the rights to. It’s facing the same kinds of termination notices, such as one filed in May 2021, by Larry Lieber, co-creator of Iron-Man, Thor and Ant-Man. Complaints filed by Disney aim to keep the rights to the Avengers characters for which termination notices have been filed.
RELATED: Disney is currently at risk of losing the rights to Mickey Mouse. You can read more about that here.
It’s worth noting that if Disney loses in the rulings, it can still market and profit from the Avengers characters around the world. These decisions on these filings only relate to profiting here in the United States.
Litigation in the suits is expected to focus on the “Marvel Method,”: a way in which many of Marvel’s comic books were written. With the Marvel Method, ideas are minimally discussed and shared with the artists who are then responsible for the details that we see in the finished product.