Written By Kieran Bugg
Not even Thanos can tear the rights to Spider-Man and other Marvel superheroes away from Disney.
It’s another day, another lawsuit, over at Marvel and Disney.
As usual, various media outlets click-baited the situation to death.
However, while serious, the outcome will likely be familiar.
But the talking heads won’t tell you the real truth.
Same as it ever was.
By now you’ve probably heard of the latest legal drama going on between Disney and the heirs of various creators of certain Marvel characters.
Numerous news sites reported it last week like a 9.8 magnitude earthquake.
They spread panic amongst the Marvel fanbase and the entire pop-culture community.
We can assure you that there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
Disney is not going to the rights to their beloved superheroes in any way, shape, or form.
For those who don’t fully understand what’s going on right now let me, break it down for you.
For the past few months Marvel Comics received numerous notices of termination for several of their most notable and lucrative IPs.
Heirs and estates of creators such as the comic legends like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and others demanded that, by the end of July 2023, the rights to all these characters must be reverted back to them by then.
Furthermore, neither Marvel Comics nor their owner Disney will no longer be able to use them.
This goes all the way back to the now infamous Copyright Act of 1976.
That has a section which allows creators, their heirs, and their estates to regain the rights to their creations.
Moreover, it also allows them the opportunity to share in the later economic success of their creations and regain the previously granted copyright(s).
Ditko’s estate has filed two of these termination notices.
One is for the rights to Spider-Man, who is one of the most iconic and well-known characters in all of pop culture.
The other is for the rights to Doctor Strange.
Ditko co-created both heroes alongside Lee back in the early 60s.
Other characters that have been mentioned in these notices from the other creator’s estates are: Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Falcon, and Blade.
In regard to to Spider-Man this would not only affect Marvel and Disney but Sony Pictures as well.
Disney Unlikely To Lose Rights To Spider-Man And Other Marvel Heroes
After all, Sony owns the film rights to the character.
Therefore, this news should probably have them concerned right now.
They’re also at risk of losing the rights to Spider-Man.
In response to this Disney has filed a lawsuit against each of these heirs and estates in order the maintain the complete control of the rights to the characters.
For one of the five notices they have argued with the usual and expected response to the Ditko estate.
Any contributions Steve Ditko made to the works were done at Marvel’s expense because Marvel paid Steve Ditko a per-page rate for his contributions. Steve Ditko made those contributions to the works with the expectation that Marvel would pay him, and Steve Ditko did not obtain any ownership interest in or to his contributions.
The really sad part about this situation is that Ditko would probably not have wanted this to happen if he was still here with us today.
Ditko was known for his anonymity from the public’s eye.
In fact, Ditko refused to appear at events, give autographs or take pictures with fans.
In addition, Ditko declined to do interviews.
Legendary comic book writer and creator of DC’s Sandman Neil Gaiman even went as far to call Ditko “impossibly uptight,” which sounds quite accurate.
Blake Bell, the author of Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, framed a similar portrait of Ditko.
He’s never been interested in celebrity, and he’s obviously at peace with it. He could have made a big stink, especially when the first Spider-Man movie came out in 2002, and he probably could have gotten a lot of money and publicity, but he didn’t.
Sadly, for the Ditko estate, this isn’t about the characters.
It feels like a petty cash grab as in recent years with the surge of the MCU.
These characters skyrocketed in popularity and became household names.
They generate billions of dollars in revenue for both Disney and Marvel.
The money is far much more than what they were before the MCU began.
Of course these heirs and estates are going to want a slice of the pie that the companies are enjoying.
Think about it, if you were the heir of one of these writers, wouldn’t you want a slice?
The idea is nothing new, and previous attempts crashed and burned.
Over the past few decades many creators of certain characters and their heirs have tried to pull off something like this with Marvel but to no avail.
One such instance involves Marvel’s most bizarre character Howard the Duck.
Howard the Duck’s co-creator Steve Gerber handed his own notice of termination to Marvel in 1980 for the rights to the character.
Nothing came of it; otherwise, we probably wouldn’t have seen Howard the Duck in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies or marry Darcy Lewis in Vegas in a What If…? episode.
Another incident involved the rights to everyone’s favorite spirit of vengeance Ghost Rider.
Disney Unlikely To Lose Rights To Spider-Man And Other Marvel Heroes
Co-creator Gary Friedrich tried to do the same thing but that ended with Marvel and him reaching an unspecified deal to close the matter.
The family of Kirby went ahead and decided to take on Marvel as well for the rights to Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and the original X-Men. Kirby co-created them with Lee.
Again the dispute was settled by both sides with them even releasing a statement:
Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.
No further details were revealed as to how this matter was put to bed.
It’s likely that a cash settlement was involved that left both sides satisfied.
Something like this has also in fact even happened to DC Comics and Warner Bros. before regarding the copyright interests of Superman.
During this Superman lawsuit lawyer Marc Toberoff represented the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
The courts eventually ruled in DC’s favor.
Toberoff is now the one representing the heirs and estates of the Marvel currently in question.
Disney will use these previous victories of theirs to their advantage.
They will undoubtedly end up dropping Thor’s hammer on this whole thing based on legal history in such cases.
Honestly, lawsuit won’t even go anywhere anyway.
The heirs and the estates will likely give up on it instead of dragging it out too far or possibly settle this out of court.
Disney does not like bad publicity; also, they are still the most powerful entertainment company in the world with high-powered attorneys.
Should this actually end up going to court, there’s no need to be concerned.
Disney will still come out on top.
They have the law on their side in this matter given that all the characters were conceived by their creators for Marvel.
They were under employment at Marvel meaning they legally belong to the company.