Marvel files lawsuits to maintain control over Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and more key characters

Image Credits: Marvel Studios

Marvel goes back to court. The publisher, belonging to The Walt Disney Company, is preparing five lawsuits against the heirs of several of the creators of its best-known characters to avoid having to share control of key characters such as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel, and more members of the Avengers, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter. The culprit in all this mess of rights is a provision of copyright law called "right of withdrawal."

This section of the law allows the heirs of the authors to demand that the full transfer of a license to the publisher be terminated, which does not mean that it means that Marvel would lose the full rights of the characters. They could continue to use them but they would have to share the benefits with the heirs of the creators of those characters. In short, we are facing a new chapter in the war that many authors of the characters that are making companies like Disney earn a lot of money have started to receive their fair share of the cake.

The House of Ideas has launched its demands in response to those already presented by the heirs of authors such as Steve Ditko (Spider-Man), Don Heck (Iron Man), Don Rico (Black Widow), and Gene Colan (Captain Marvel), as well as Stan Lee's brother, Larry Lieber. All of them are represented by Marc Toberoff, a lawyer who had already represented the heirs of Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, against Marvel, and the creators of Superman against DC. In both cases, he lost, and Marvel has hired his rival in the DC won the case, Dan Petrocelli, to represent them in these new lawsuits.

The "Marvel method"

Marvel defends itself by ensuring that the characters in the play were created through contracts for "commissioned jobs" and that, therefore, the authorship belongs to the publisher, which is the one who paid an "employee" for the work performed. They also speak of the "Marvel method", ensuring that they have always worked collaboratively between different artists and that the authorship of a character cannot be attributed to a single person. The heirs of the authors assure that the law of the time in which many of these characters were created did not exist "work for commission" and that they should have the opportunity to recover the rights of their creations.


The lawsuit of the heirs of Steve Ditko, which affects the rights of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, was filed last August and, if it goes ahead, it would mean that Marvel would lose the full rights of those characters in June 2023. Again, that does not mean that the presence of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange in the MCU is in danger because Marvel would not lose the exploitation rights of the characters, but they would be forced to share benefits with the heirs of their author.

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