Saturday, August 06, 2011

Marvel Keeps Copyright Of Kirby Characters

Marvel Comics has rebuffed a legal threat to ownership of its famous brands, including "The Incredible Hulk" and the "X-Men", in one of the first legal rulings focused on 'copyright termination'.

When the US Congress passed the '1978 Copyright Act', it included a provision for copyright termination, allowing authors who sold their copyrights to publishers to recapture them after 35 years by filing a copyright termination notice.

In 2009, the estate of comic book illustrator Jack 'King' Kirby, co-creator of 1940's icon "Captain America", sent 45 termination notices to Marvel, seeking to recapture copyrights to Marvel comic book characters published between 1958 and 1963, including "The Fantastic Four".

Marvel sued to fight those termination notices, with the judge ruling that Kirby’s heirs cannot recapture those copyrights because his work was legally “work made for hire”. Therefore termination rights don’t exist.

The lawyer for the Kirby estate contested the idea that Kirby's output was "work for hire" as he was an independent freelance artist, paid by the page, with no benefits received from Marvel as an employee.

Click the images to enlarge...