On Friday, Disney filed a lawsuit against Steve Ditko and other Marvel comics creators to keep rights of characters, including Iron Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Thor.
Daniel M. Petrocelli, a high-powered Los Angeles litigator, filed the complaints on Disney’s behalf in federal courts in New York and California against the heirs of Steve Ditko, Don Rico, Don Heck, and Gene Colan, as well as Stan Lee’s brother and Marvel collaborator Lawrence Lieber.
They ask courts to declare that Disney has sole ownership of comics like The Avengers, Iron Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Strange Tales, and Tales of Suspense — including the characters and story elements that have formed the basis for Disney’s lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe.
According to the reports of The Hollywood Reporter, the suits follow Lieber and others sending termination notices to reclaim part of the rights on many Marvel characters. They’re an attempt to head off litigation that might follow from those notices.
Termination notices are meant to let creators and their heirs share in publishers’ profits. But Disney’s attorneys argue that Marvel had sole creative control over the characters and comic books in question, saying it paid writers and artists on a work-for-hire basis that precluded any rights to the resulting books.
“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,” Mr. Petrocelli said by phone.
Disney’s complaint against Mr. Lieber contends that Marvel assigned Lieber stories to write, had the right to exercise control over Lieber’s contributions and paid Lieber a per-page rate for his contributions. Those conditions render his contributions work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s provisions do not apply.