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Kirby heirs may prove to be headache for Disney

Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes of the New York Times Media Decoder blog write about the $4 billion acquisition of Marvel by Disney may become entangled in legal mire as the heirs of Jack Kirby, who created many of the iconic Marvel heroes, have already begun sending notices of copyright termination to Marvel, Disney and other studios.

From their blog:

The window for serving notice of termination on the oldest of the properties opened several years ago, and will remain open for some time under the law. But Disney’s announced purchase gives a new reason for anyone with claims on Marvel to stake out a position.

Under copyright law, the author or his heirs can begin a process to regain copyrights a certain period of years after the original grant. If Mr. Kirby’s four children were to gain the copyright to a co-created character, they might become entitled to a share of profits from films or other properties using it. They might also find themselves able to sell rights to certain characters independently of Marvel, Disney, or the various studios that have licensed the Marvel properties for their hit films.

Community Comments

#1 Tom Heintjes
September/21/2009
@ 1:12 pm

Wow, this could be HUGE. Of course, disney could tie it up for years with claims of work for hire, etc. I can tell you personally, while researching and reporting on the Kirby original art imbroglio for The Comics Journal, I know that Marvel was scared you-know-whatless of the claims Kirby could have possibly made. That fear is why they drew up an art-return agreement for Jack that was dramatically different from that used for other Silver Age creators. Jack never signed it (in large part because of the sustained and intense public criticism Marvel was getting), so who knows what legal options remain available to his heirs?

#2 Dave Stephens
September/22/2009
@ 2:58 am

Treat a “King” like a fool and you might suffer the axe…

And now it’s “mouse” of ideas – Excelsior!

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