Marvel wins superhero copyright claim
- 29 July 2011
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Marvel has won a legal battle to retain copyright of its lucrative comic book characters including Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk.
The company sued the family of late co-creator Jack Kirby last year after they laid claim to copyrights for work he created from 1958 to 1963.
However a New York judge ruled Kirby's illustrations of characters like Iron Man had been created "for hire".
A lawyer for Kirby's estate has said they will appeal the ruling.
Other characters at the centre of the dispute included The Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, The X-Men, The Avengers, Ant-Man, Nick Fury and The Rawhide Kid.
"This case is not about whether Jack Kirby or Stan Lee is the real 'creator' of Marvel characters,'' US District Judge Colleen McMahon wrote in her 50-page ruling.
"It is about whether Kirby's work qualifies as work-for-hire under the Copyright Act of 1909.''
The judge said the contracts she reviewed made it clear that all of Kirby's work for publications owned by Marvel was work for hire.
She noted the artist - who died in 1994 - said in a 1986 sworn statement that he did his work at a time when it was common practice for vested ownership of his creations to belong to the company that paid him to draw.
She added Kirby had also signed a written agreement in the spring of 1972 admitting that he was not entitled to retain ownership of the work.
The judge therefore concluded Marvel was considered the author and owner of Kirby's creations because the characters were made at Marvel's expense.
"We are pleased that in this case, the judge has confirmed Marvel's ownership," a statement from The Walt Disney Co, which purchased Marvel in 2009, said.
Marc Toberoff, a lawyer for the Kirby estate, told Hollywood Reporter: "We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling and intend to appeal this matter."