Disney is now facing a number of ongoing legal battles from the estates of several of Marvel’s most prominent comic creators, showing the Scarlett Johansson Black Widow lawsuit may have only been just the beginning of such disputes.
According to ComicBook.com, news began to spread Friday about the lawsuits, followed by a statement from the lawyer representing the various estates saying what the group is looking to accomplish with the lawsuits.
Attorney Marc Toberoff is representing Larry Lieber, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Don Rico, and Gene Colan. The attorney expressed regret not following through on other intellectual property cases along similar lines cases in the past.
“At the core of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of ‘work-made-for-hire’ under the 1909 Copyright Act that needs to be rectified,” Toberoff said in a statement. “We had tremendous support from the artistic community, the former Register of Copyrights, the former Trademark Commissioner, all the Guilds (WGA, SAG, DGA), PEN America, and 237 artists, including a dozen Pulitzer winners. The Kirby case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which showed keen interest, at which point Disney settled. At the time, I was asked whether I regretted not righting the legal injustice to creators – which I indeed did. I responded that there would be other such cases.”
The estate of comics creator Jack Kirby, represented by Toberoff, was able to secure a credit of his respective characters in any film or television show they appear in thanks to a settlement agreement with Disney. The case between Disney and Kirby proved to be a landmark IP case that dragged on from 2010 to 2014 and went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court until Disney made the out-of-court settlement.
On the House of Mouse side of the aisle, Disney’s interests are being represented by outside counsel Daniel Petrocelli, who also reportedly gave a statement.
“Any contributions Steve Ditko made to the Works were done at Marvel‘s expense because Marvel paid Steve Ditko a per-page rate for his contributions, Steve Ditko made those contributions to the Works with the expectation that Marvel would pay him, and Steve Ditko did not obtain any ownership interest in or to his contributions,” Petrocelli said.
Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Black Widow, Blade, Captain Marvel, Falcon, and Hawkeye are just some of the largest characters at the center of the lawsuit. It remains to be seen how the legal battle will affect future Marvel Cinematic Universe films that Disney releases.