Marvel Studios, becoming a legal firm from being a blockbuster entertainment conglomerate, is underway. Marvel is filing a series of cases against numerous Marvel comics figures, that includes the heirs of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (American book writers, editors, publishers, and producers, known for Marvel Comics), claiming complete ownership over its most popular characters.
The characters in contention of the lawsuits are Spider-man, Ant-man, Thor, Back Widow, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Iron-man Falcon, Blade, and potentially more. This legal counter-offensive comes in response to a few comic creators filing notice of terminations for numerous marvel characters copyrighted status. Such as the estate of Steve Ditko filed a legal notice warning Disney that marvel would have to let go of the rights of Spider-man in 2023 based on termination provisions under US Copyright Law. The legal information concerning this is quite complicated, but possible results are a bit clearer. Many marvel characters are eligible for copyright termination based on US Copyright Law, due to which Disney may lose a substantial number of Intellectual Properties.
Movie adaptation distributors have made many efforts to end the copyright of Marvel’s characters, such as The Incredible Hulk, Spider-man, and more. For example, Jack Kirby’s estate made efforts to terminate Marvel’s copyright but was failed to do so in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. According to US Copyright Law 1909, the IP for Mickey Mouse was supposed to end and enter the public domain in 1984. However, the US Copyright law was amended to the European standards, and the duration was fixed to the life of the author+70 years, which gave Mickey Mouse time until 2003. In 2003, the case went all the way to US Supreme Court. However, the public overturned the extension act. The court upheld the decision and decided that the role of the Copyright law is to promote the development of useful arts & science, which did not limit the power of Congress to change the law.
Therefore, there is minimal precedent for Disney allowing its copyright on substantial characters to expire. There’s still a grey area where Disssney could lose if a new court doesn’t align with the previous Kirby case.
What if Marvel loses the rights?
Irrespective of Disney losing the rights over its characters, it would not mean that they won’t make movies including these heroes in any future projects. That is because Disney can negotiate with the new owners for a license as long as owners receive royalties (profits) out of it. But, as this copyright law only applies to the USA, Marvel could potentially retain control over international distribution.