Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who Owns Spider-Man?

The estate of comic artist Jack Kirby is trying to regain copyrights back from the newly formed alliance between Disney and Marvel Comics.

The heirs of Jack Kirby -- the comics legend who made Marvel what it is today -- are using a little-used copyright rule that lets them take Kirby's creations away from Marvel (soon to be Disney-Marvel) and put them back under the estate's control. There will be trademarks covering the characters that still belong to Disney-Marvel; and the collectively created characters, stories, art and situations will be jointly held by two hostile parties: Disney-Marvel and the Kirbys.
The Kirby estate may end up with the economic right to the characters and get a share of the profits but not control over the right to veto various uses and licenses.

The Kirbys are being represented by Toberoff & Associates, a Los Angeles firm that helped win a court ruling last year returning a share of the copyright in Superman to heirs of the character's co-creator, Jerome Siegel.

Sony has the film rights to Spider-Man (left) in perpetuity, while Fox has the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Paramount has a distribution agreement for Marvel's next few self-produced movies, including a second "Iron Man" film. Meanwhile, Hasbro has certain toy rights and Universal holds the Florida theme park rights to Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, among other characters.

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