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Jack Kirby’s heirs seek to reclaim copyrights to some Marvel characters [Updated]

by  in Comic News Comment

In a move that by now should be familiar to comics fans, the heirs of Jack Kirby are seeking to regain copyrights to some of the legendary artist’s creations.

The New York Times reports that 45 copyright-termination notices were sent last week to Marvel, Disney, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and others who have made films and other forms of entertainment based on characters that Kirby co-created.

The heirs, who are represented by Marc Toberoff — the attorney who helped the wife and daughter of Jerry Siegel regain a share of Superman last year — intend to reclaim copyrights to some properties as early as 2014.

A copyright dispute that involves many of Marvel’s marquee characters obviously adds a wrinkle to the recently announced $4-billion purchase by Disney.

Although the article doesn’t say which characters are specified, the movie studios listed may offer a clue: Sony Pictures holds the film rights to Spider-Man; Universal had the Incredible Hulk; Fox has the X-Men and Fantastic Four; and Paramount has the distribution rights to several of the Marvel-produced projects, including the Iron Man movies.

In addition to those characters, Kirby also co-created (with Stan Lee) The Avengers, Thor, the Black Panther, the Silver Surfer, Nick Fury, Magneto, Galactus and Doctor Doom — to name but a few properties that have recently appeared, or are slated to appear, in film or on television.

Developing, naturally …

Update (7:09 p.m.): The Los Angeles Times breaks down some of the dates when Kirby’s children would be eligible to claim their father’s share of copyright: Fantastic Four in 2017, the Hulk in 2018 and X-Men in 2019. (The copyrights would continue for another 39 years under current law.)

The newspaper also manages to get a comment from a Disney spokesperson: “The notices involved are an attempt to terminate rights seven to 10 years from now and involve claims that were fully considered in the acquisition.”