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  • Jesus Arambula

Copyrighted Characters, Assemble!

[image by wikipedia]

Ever since Marvel began making movies of their classic comic book superheroes, the MCU took over the popularity of the comic book universe. Before the film, comic book superheroes were only cult classics. With the MCU in place, more people are invested in these characters more than ever before. However, when we the consumers have fun and games with the multiple Marvel characters, the executives high up are fighting over control of these characters. This went so far as to Disney suing to hold complete control of the Avengers characters.

But many of you might be thinking, "wait, Disney bought Marvel. Doesn't Disney already own the characters?" Well, yes and no. The heirs of the latest comic book creators include Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan. Disney's lawsuit is aimed to show that our favourite superheroes are ineligible for copyright termination.

What the heck is copyright termination? Glad you asked. Suppose you make a song and you transfer your copyright in 2020. But let's say you wanted your copyright back. What then? Is that song still yours? Well, in your situation, your termination window would begin in the year 2055 and end in 2060. You can complete the transfer between those dates. If you actually want to terminate the transfer, you would have to send a notice to whoever you transferred the copyright to during 2045 and 2053. Does that make sense? If it didn't, it's ok, since it's very confusing with this whole law shenanigans. Anyways, why does this copyright termination matter? If Marvel loses the rights to their treasured comic book characters, then Disney would share ownership.

Back in August, Ditko's administrator filed a notice of termination on Spider-Man. Under the termination rules and laws, authors (or their heirs) can take back the rights during a set period (like mentioned before) once they have been granted the publishing rights. And in Ditko's example, Marvel would have to give up its rights to Spider-Man in the year 2023. Back in May, Larry Lieber, one of Marvel's greatest comic artists and writers, also filed a termination notice over some of his creations.

In this Disney lawsuit, they would hold on to some shares of the Marvel characters as co-owners. In addition, the profits would also be shared with the other studios. Also, these termination laws only apply in the United States, so Disney would still be responsible for controlling and profiting from foreign affairs.

What do you think about the lawsuit? Do you think they should have shared ownership? Maybe the creators should have complete control over their creations? What do you think will happen with the MCU?


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