It’s a heated legal battle within the world of Marvel. Former writers and illustrators who worked on the characters, that we know and love today are trying to claim the rights. What is going down is, these artists are seeking declaratory relief for the characters that they have worked on decades ago. In theory if Marvel loses the legal battle, Disney would have to share ownership of the characters.

The financial damage would cost Disney billions from characters via Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Doctor Strange etc. Under the termination notices by copyright law, the authors or their heirs can reclaim the rights once granted to publishers after a certain period of time. Also on the other hand, with the termination notice as Marvel would lose rights towards some of their iconic characters in June 2023. That’s big and would mean profit sharing for all these characters.

Whose Involved In The Legal Battle?

If you know your comic book creators and authors, as a lot familiar faces are involved. For example as, Larry Lieber who used to be a Marvel writer and he filed termination notices over creations back in May. If you weren’t aware as Lieber is the younger brother of Stan Lee. Lee is the most famous faces within the comic book and entertainment industry for the iconic work he did. He passed away back in November 2018. He also known for being the co-founder of the popular franchise that Lee worked when was still around.

Image: (© Marvel)

The co-creator of Black Widow, Don Rico is also involved for similar claims. He represented by Marc Toberoff. If you know the Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster as Toberoff was their attorney. Even more comic book geniuses including Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan are also trying to settle the copyright claims,

Another key player is Dan Petrocelli, who is a lawyer at O’Melveny for. He is representing Disney (Marvel’s owner) and to keep rights to various Avengers characters. Petrocelli has filed several lawsuits in New York and California against Lieber. In addition as the cases, will focus on the creation of famous comic book characters.

Explained Further

This is where things get really interesting. Almost a decade ago, as Toberoff had similar experience as he represented another comic book legend, Jack Kirby. Back then over whether he could terminate a copyright grant against Spider-Man, X-Men, Thor, and The Fantastic Four.

August 2013 was when the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, for a lower court’s ruling. In which this case that Kirby’s heirs couldn’t grab on to his share of the rights, for the characters. The whole reason because, a Marvel freelancer had contributed towards his materials as work for hire.

Image: (© Marvel)

Now in this current case between Disney and Marvel as this where it settles down to. To simply put it, if the plaintiffs win as Disney is expected to hold on a least of a share of characters rights as co-owners. The studio would have to share profits with Marvel. The termination provisions of copyright law only apply in the United States, allowing Disney to continue to control and profit from foreign exploitation.

Dan Petrocelli, the attorney representing Marvel in the case, made it clear for the company’s argument in an emailed statement.

“Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect”

Dan Petrocelli, partnered lawyer at O’Melveny

On the other hand as Toberoff disagreed with both Disney’s current argument and the lower court’s decision in the Kirby case. In which he said in a statement that “Marvel similarly sued Kirby’s family for exercising their rights under the Copyright Act.”

Also to note for clarification purposes from Disney, that they “are facing the loss of full ownership”.


The Marvel brand is known globally and can be founded everywhere. From merchandising, theme park attractions and a dedicated category of content on streaming service Disney+. Even with the recent successes of “Loki”, “Wandavision” and now the upcoming Hawkeye series. While this legal situation is still on-going, as the big question will remain for how it pans out for the end result.

For all things Marvel, be sure to check back here at That Hashtag Show.

Souce: LA Times The Hollywood Reporter