Marvel wins court battle over superhero rights
Jul 29, 2011, 12:16 GMT
New York - Even superheroes have owners, and in the cases of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and other prominent characters the owner happens to be comic book publisher Marvel Worldwide.
That was the decision Thursday by Judge Colleen McMahon in New York, who dismissed the copyright claims of the heirs of Jack Kirby, the comic book artist who created Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, The Avengers and Iron Man between 1958-63. Kirby died in 2004.
McMahon ruled that the characters belonged to Marvel, which was acquired by Disney for 4 billion dollars in 2009, because the company had hired Kirby to create the characters, and Marvel bore the risk of failure.
'This case is not about whether Jack Kirby or (Marvel founder) Stan Lee is the real 'creator' of Marvel characters, or whether Kirby (and other freelance artists who created culturally iconic comic book characters for Marvel and other publishers) were treated 'fairly' by companies that grew rich off their labour,' McMahon wrote. 'It is about whether Kirby's work qualifies as work for hire under the Copyright Act of 1909.'
The Walt Disney company welcomed the ruling, but a lawyer for Kirby's heirs pledged to appeal the decision.
'We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling and intend to appeal this matter,' Toberoff said. 'Sometimes you have to lose in order to win. We knew when we took this on that it would not be an easy fight given various arcane and contradictory 'work for hire' decisions under the 1909 Copyright Act.'