Everyone wants the legacy to remain with them. So, to preserve the Marvel franchise, Walt Disney Company filed lawsuits to invalidate the copyright termination notices given by the artists and the illustrators involved in the characters like Spider-Man, Thor, and Iron Man.
A complaint was filed on behalf of Disney in the Federal Court of New York and California by Daniel M. Petrocelli, who is one of the high-powered Los Angeles prosecutors.
It all began in the summer when Marc Toberoff, a property lawyer who served Marvel Entertainment, which Disney owns, came up with the copyright termination notices on behalf of five clients. The five clients included Lawrence D. Lieber, who worked as a comics writer and is a popular artist for their contribution to the development of the Marvel character Badrock. Also, Lieber is the younger brother of Stan Lee, who worked as the chief editor and editor of Marvel Comics and died in 2018.
Apart from Lawrence D. Lieber, Don Heck, and Steve Ditko, who are from the estates of comics illustration, and Gene Colan and Don Rico are the other clients of Marc Toberoff. They seek to claim the rights related to the Marvel Characters designed with their contribution, which consists of the character of Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Blade, and Falcon. These are the characters who have proved themselves to be the star revenue generators for the Disney Company.
They are trying to reclaim under the provision of copyright law, and under that, it has a condition that allows authors/ heirs to regain ownership of the product after certain years. All the work was done on hire, it is all owned by Marvel, and lawsuits filed to terminate the notices were invalid and did not have any legal effect.
Meanwhile, Disney complained that the company assigned Lieber to write the stories and also holds the right to control Lieber’s contribution. The company had also paid Lieber for his work, and thus the condition falls under the work made for hire and in which the Copyright Act Provision does not apply. To this complaint Marc Toberoff strongly disagrees and says that at the time when these characters were created, it was not work made for hire under the law, all the guys were working as a freelancer and hence they can not be termed as the full-time employees.
The termination notice has described the intent to regain the copyright. If it is successful, the clients of Marc Toberoff will receive some amount made from the profit in the upcoming works of the copyrighted characters. It is nothing new for Disney as it has been fighting the rights infringement case for 18 years involving Winnie the Pooh. Once Disney pushed so extremely for the extension of copyright terms that resulted in the law named as Mickey Mouse Protection Act in 1998.
Also, the ones who wrote the original screenplay of the film Predator in 1987, Jim Thomas and John Thomas, are seeking to regain their rights. Toberoff has already been into the eyes in Hollywood as he represented the people who claim ownership over the old films, comics, or television shows. He won a case against The Warner Bros for the movie “The Dukes of Hazzard” in the 2000s.
Toberoff also represented the heirs of Marvel comic artist Jack Kirby as they tried to regain the rights on dozens of characters, which Kirby created and included characters like Hulk, X Men, and Captain America. At that time, things were settled as the US Supreme Court considered whether to hear the case. He also faced a rough battle with the Warner Brothers for the rights of the character of Superman, but the Warner Brotherss got two hearings in their favor.