Legendary comic creator Joe Simon’s bid for the Captain America copyright ended earlier this month, with a loss in U.S. District Court.
Marvel Comics retains the copyright to the Star Spangled Avenger, according to a ruling handed down March 4. The decision is the third in a serious of such decisions handed down to comic creators in the past year: Archie Comics artist and creator Dan DeCarlo lost his bid last year for the ownership of Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Marv Wolfman’s attempt to regain the rights to Blade and associated characters from Marvel was similarly frustrated. All three creators maintain the characters were created out of a work-for-hire situation, which normally gives comic companies the rights to any characters created. Like DeCarlo’s case, Simon’s Captain America case appears to have been complicated by a failure to act at an earlier time — in Simon’s case, he signed an agreement in 1969, after two years of legal wrangling with Marvel, dismissing his claims to the character in return for a lump sum of money.
Thirty years later, Simon claimed he had not previously understood the full legal ramifications of the agreement, and again entered into legal action against Marvel, this time attempting to undo the previous transfer of copyright. Marvel requested a summary judgment, which was handed down on March 4, with the court upholding Marvel’s claims to Captain America, and disputing Simon’s claims:
“Because the Captain America Works were created for hire and all work done on the Captain America Works by Simon was done as an employee for hire,” Judge Richard Casey wrote in his decision, “The protection offered by section 304(c) of the Copyright Act of 1976 is unavailable to him. Accordingly, the Court holds that Simon’s claims of ownership of the Captain America Works in the Notices, and, therefore, the Notices themselves, are invalid and of no legal force and effect. In accordance with the Settlement Agreement, the Court awards Marvel declaratory judgment that Marvel is the sole owner of the copyrights in and to the Captain America Works.”