Marvel has settled their copyright lawsuits with Larry Lieber and the estates of Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Don Rico
A couple years ago, Marvel received copyright termination notices from comic book artist / writer Larry Lieber and the estates of fellow artists / writers Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Don Rico that would have caused them to lose the sole copyrights to such characters as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and others, as well as titles like Amazing Fantasy, The Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Iron Man, Journey Into Mystery, Marvel Super-Heroes, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, and Tomb of Dracula. As reported in 2021, Marvel filed a series of lawsuits in response to those copyright termination notices. Now The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that all of those lawsuits have been settled.
The termination notices targeted not just specific artwork and stories, but also “any character, story element, or indicia reasonably associated with the Works.” As The Hollywood Reporter explains, U.S. Copyright Law gives authors or their heirs the ability to essentially claw back copyrights after a certain period of time. It doesn’t cover works made for hire, which has been Marvel’s primary argument in these matters.
The lawsuits between Marvel (represented by Dan Petrocelli and Molly Lens of O’Melveny) and Lieber and the estates of Gene Colan, Don Heck, and Don Rico were actually resolved back in June. Deals were made, and Marvel and the other parties filed joint stipulations for voluntary dismissal. The lawsuit between Marvel and the estate of Steve Ditko – represented by Marc Toberoff, who also represented Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller in his feud with the original Friday the 13th‘s producer/director Sean S. Cunningham over the U.S. copyright to that film – took a while longer than settle. In fact, it only wrapped up last week. Last Wednesday, Marvel’s attorneys and Toberoff notified the court that they have reached an amicable settlement. A “dismissal with prejudice” is expected to be filed soon.
(In case you’re wondering, Miller won his Friday the 13th copyright dispute and is now executive producing a Friday the 13th TV show called Crystal Lake with Toberoff.)
So everyone seems to be satisfied with the outcome of these lawsuits, and Marvel retains control of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and every other character, story, and title involved in these lawsuits. The Avengers are free to keep on avenging.
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