Directly after Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion, they showed us a huge presentation at D23 for their upcoming Marvel slate, apparently, just now, they and all the other studios hit a snag. Apparently, many of the superheroes used in the comics may still belong to the late artist Jack Kirby and his family has just sent out 45 “notices of termination” seeking to regain copyright control of certain characters. Is it for the money? Or something else?
Marvel, Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, were all among the studios who were divvied up notices by Kirby’s children for his superheroes X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor and the Hulk (like anyone want to do yet ANOTHER Hulk movie). Sony currently owns the movie rights to Spider-Man, Fox to Fantastic Four and X-Men, and the rest of the characters are mainly split between Paramount and Universal which have distribution rights for certain Marvel-produced films.
The NY Times stated:
The notices expressed an intent to regain copyrights to some of Mr. Kirby’s creations as early as 2014, according to a statement disclosed on Sunday by Toberoff & Associates, a law firm in Los Angeles that helped win a court ruling last year returning a share of the copyright in Superman to heirs of one of the character’s creators, Jerome Siegel.
According to the LA Times, the law does allow them to send out notices 10 years before they intend to take back the copyright. No action, can or will be taken for some time, which allows the studios plenty of time to figure out their next move.
Under copyright law, creators can seek to regain copyrights they previously assigned to a company 56 years after first publication and can give notice of their intentions up to 10 years before that.
Kirby’s children would be eligible to claim their father’s portion of the copyright of the Fantastic Four in 2017; the Hulk would come up in 2018 and X-Men in 2019. The copyrights would then run for 39 more years.
No one from Marvel has made a comment on the matter, but a Disney spokesperson did say, “The notices involved are an attempt to terminate rights seven to 10 years from now and involve claims that were fully considered in the acquisition.”
It sounds like they either don’t find the lawsuits very threatening, or are planning on getting all their projects far enough along in the next 10 years that it doesn’t matter/ Perhaps this is just a bluff and a way for the Kirby children to cash in on their father’s art? After all, if the studios can make heaps of money on their father’s characters, shouldn’t they be able to?
At the moment it doesn’t seem like anyone is too threatened by the situation, most likely because they have a decade to decide what to do. Maybe this is a good thing, it will light the fire under certain films, so that they can get done before studios have to deal with this. Although the last thing we need in ten years from now is a surge of half-assed/crappy Marvel/Disney films because they didn’t have time to write a decent script.
What do you think will happen? Any able to give us further insight on copyright laws?