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Kirby vs Marvel (& Disney) 2014

Legal smack down ends with hand-shakes and an unknown deal between Marvel/Disney and the Kirby heirs.


"11th hour deal should come as no great surprise"

Sept 26, 2014: Deadline Hollywood on the Kirby - Marvel case:

"It was a long legal road for them and Marvel to get to today’s deal. After failing repeatedly in lower courts, Lisa Kirby, Neal Kirby, Susan Kirby and Barbara Kirby petitioned the High Court on March 21 for a hearing on the matter. In their petition, the heirs wanted SCOTUS to rule in favor of their assertion that they had the right in 2009 to issue termination notices on 262 works that the comic legend helped create between 1958 and 1963. Those 45 notices went out to Marvel/Disney, Fox, Sony, Universal and Paramount Pictures and others who’ve made films based on the artist’s characters under the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. Marvel sued in 2010, after failing to reach an agreement back then with the Kirby family to invalidate the termination notices.

All things considered, and with the billions that Marvel/Disney have made off the films filled with characters Kirby marvel-disney-created, this 11th hour deal should come as no great surprise – except for how long it took them. The bottom line and PR risk that the media giant was taking if SCOTUS had agreed to move the family’s petition up to an actual hearing would have sent a shudder through the market and the town."


"The settlement, which will surely please shareholders of Marvel parent Disney"

Sept 26, 2014 Hollywood Reporter :

"Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby's significant role in Marvel's history," read a joint statement from Marvel and the Kirby family. The settlement, which will surely please shareholders of Marvel parent Disney as much as it will disappoint many others in the entertainment industry, brings an end to a contentious lawsuit that started after Kirby's family, represented by attorney Marc Toberoff, began sending termination notices to Marvel and its licensees Sony, Fox and Universal over such superhero characters as Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk and others. Marvel sought a declaration that the termination notices were invalid."


"Disney shareholders are likely breathing a collective sigh of relief"

Sept 126, 2014: International Business Times:

"Marvel sought a court decision to invalidate the notices, and a judge and appeals court agreed. However, the Kirby estate and Toberoff requested a Supreme Court review, and a number of intellectual property experts agreed.

The terms of Marvel’s agreement with the Kirby family have not been released publicly, but Disney shareholders are likely breathing a collective sigh of relief. Kirby's characters continue to create revenues for the company from movies, action figures and other related merchandise."


April 2014

Kirby heirs file with Supreme Court for ruling

Heirs hope Supremes will overturn Court of Appeals ruling from last October, 2013.

Lisa Kirby, Neal Kirby, Susan Kirby and Barbara Kirby have filed a 39 page brief detailing why the action from the Court of Appeals constitutes a denial of their rights exercised when they issued copyright termination notices in 2009 based upon the 1976 Copyright Act. In 2009 they sent out 45 notices of termination to Marvel/Disney, Sony and 20th Century Fox.

On the block in this case are copyrights for various characters such as Avengers, X-Men and more. (We've tried to find a list of the 45 termination notices without success.) The Supreme Court will have to decide whether to accept this appeal or to allow the Court of Appeals ruling to stand.

Most media outlets are reporting Captain America as one of the characters in question, but since the Captain dates from 1941, it probably doesn't figure in this matter. But without a list of those 45 termination notices, its hard to say which characters are part of this long-shot at claiming ownership.

It has been pointed out that currently Sony has a indefinite lock on Spiderman for movie production, and 20th century Fox has a lock on the X-Men... if the Kirby heirs were able to nullify all of that by getting a nod from the Supreme Court, they could conceivably sell off those movie rights on these characters back to Marvel/Disney, which would then leave the Mouse Factory in complete control over the pantheon of traditional Marvel superhero characters.


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Original Page Sept 2014