(UPDATE 1:55 PM) After today’s order in their favor from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the estate of Jack Kirby had no right to issue notices back in 2009 terminating rights to characters he co-crested, Marvel issued the following: “We are gratified by the appellate court’s definitive ruling that there is no legitimate basis to terminate our ownership of the copyrights at issue,” said a company spokesperson.
PREVIOUSLY: The heirs of Captain America, The Avengers and X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby can’t terminate Marvel’s rights to his achievements because the comic legend was under a work-for-hire deal, a federal appeals court confirmed today. The ruling (read it here) by the Second Circuit Court of Appeal Thursday reaffirmed a 2011 decision by a US District Court judge on Kirby’s employment status with Marvel and what that entitled him to. “Marvel was therefore entitled to summary judgment,” wrote Judge Robert Sack for the court. “The district court made no error, in our view, in determining as a matter of law that the works were made at Marvel’s instance and expense,” he added of Kirby’s freelancer status. However, despite the end of this appeal, the case isn’t entirely over. In deciding its jurisdiction extends to only two of Kirby’s children, the Court has allowed the possibility for Lisa and Neal Kirby to find a new legal venue for the termination orders. Kirby collaborated with then Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee on Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk, The Silver Surfer and Thor among many others. Most of whom have found lucrative new life in mediums others than just on the comic pages.
As with similar copyright disputes, this case has dragged out in the courts for several years. In 2009, Lisa Kirby, Susan Kirby, Barbara Kirby and Neal Kirby sent 45 notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios that have made movies and TV shows based on characters he created or co-created, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures under the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. Marvel and Disney said the family simply had no right to do that. After attempts to strike a deal faltered, they sued the Kirbys on January 8, 2010 to invalidate the notices. Marc Toberoff, who also represented the heirs to the Superman creators in their long legal copyright battle with Warner Bros, served as the Kirbys’ attorney. The case was argued in front of the Court of Appeals on October 24, 2012.
Captain America co-creator Joe Simon has died. The legendary Simon, who collaborated with Jack Kirby on other characters as well, died Wednesday night in New York City after a brief illness. He was 98. Athough Simon was a successful … Read More »
Adding a little iconic spark to New York Comic-Con this week, Star Wars vet Mark Hamill has signed on as creative consultant to the superhero comic series New-Gen and will attend the convention to talk up a graphic novel compilation and plans for a feature film adaptation of the Marvel Comics-distributed title. Hamill will be at Comic-Con along with New-Gen creators J.D. Matonti, Chris Matonti and Julia Coppola to release the six-issue graphic novel, New-Gen: Volume One. Launched in 2008, New-Gen is the saga of twin brothers with extraordinary abilities seeking to discover their true origins in a nano-powered futuristic world. The graphic novel features an intro by Hamill. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Intellectual property lawyer Marc Toberoff has a winning track record when he goes after Hollywood studios on behalf of rightsholders. But not today. I’ve just learned that he lost big in Federal Court for the Southern District Of New York after suing Disney/Marvel for the Jack Kirby Estate. The federal judge not only granted the studio motions for summary judgment but also denied the Toberoff/Kirby’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The ruling revolved around the fact that Kirby was a freelance writer and did work-for-hire and so didn’t retain the copyright. Well, you win some and you lose some. But all the Hollywood studios are chortling because they now see Toberoff as vulnerable and not invincible. “This is just the beginning,” Toberoff just told me, noting that, after the Kirby Estate exercised their termination rights under the Copyright Act, Marvel (backed by Disney) was in the middle of settlement negotiations in December 2009 and sued the Kirbys on January 8, 2010 in NY to benefit from that state’s more favorable work-for-hire case law. UPDATE: The
Walt Disney Companyissued this statement regarding the Marvel Worldwide Inc. v. Kirby ruling: “We are pleased that in this case, the judge has confirmed Marvel’s ownership rights.”
Specifically, the estate of comic book superhero legend Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, The Silver Surfer and Thor, sent notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios that have made movies and TV shows based on characters he created or co-created, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. Normally these kinds of lawsuits are run of the mill for Hollywood. But not when they’re litigated by Toberoff, who is the bane of Big Media. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Atlas Comics, the short-lived 1970s imprint founded by Marvel Comics founder Martin Goodman, is rising from the ashes. Goodman’s grandson, Jason, has dusted off the original titles and the characters will relaunch with new story lines that begin with the release of The Grim Ghost and Phoenix. The first two titles will be unveiled at New York Comic-Con next month. According to comic book lore, Martin Goodman sold Marvel to Cadence Industries in 1970 for millions of dollars and the promise that his son Chip would stay on as editorial director. When Stan Lee — Martin’s nephew by marriage — instead showed Chip the door, Martin and Chip hatched Atlas with the goal of vanquishing its rival. It created a battle for some of the era’s top artists Read More »
The Wall Street Journal reports that Reliance ADA Group is negotiating with Universal Studios to replicate its movie-themed amusement parks in India. The result would be a $1.5 billion new park that covers 400 acres –in either New Delhi or … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have made a deal to turn Kurt Busiek’s graphic novel series Astro City into a live action feature. The deal gives the prolific comic book writer Busiek his first chance to … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Studios has hired Conan scribes Thomas Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer to write Dr. Strange, marking forward progress on a long-gestating superhero property which will likely be among the first Marvel films generated under the Disney banner. Aside from Conan–the … Read More »