Tag: Captain America

Steve Rogers, hero for our time and all time, Marvel’s main delight, written by my increasingly famous brother Ed Brubaker

Captain America in Court

Earlier this year I questioned whether Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Comics would have any effect on the long-running battle between Marvel and the heirs of Jack Kirby over the ownership rights to his creations (which are legion). To date, the answer appears to be “No.” The production of the new Captain America film continues apace, the studio remains mum on issues surrounding Marvel, and the lawsuits quietly drag on. The Kirby heirs, of course, want back the copyrights to Captain America, Thor, the Fantastic Four, and all the myriad characters created over the course of Kirby’s long association with Marvel, and have sent notices to Marvel seeking to reclaim them under the termination provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. This (quite frankly understandable) desire to reclaim ownership of material created by kith and kin has resulted in the pending lawsuit in New York in which Marvel seeks a declaration that Kirby’s creations are work-for-hire, and a separate lawsuit by the Kirby heirs seeking recovery of the ownership rights of those creations (or, presumably, several hundred million dollars).

Although nothing of moment appears to have happened in the litigation, and the parties continue to position themselves for the arduous fight ahead, the latest news is that the Kirby heirs have dismissed their California case, and will seek resolution of their dispute with Marvel in New York.

For a detailed description of the history leading up to the Kirby vs. Marvel lawsuit, as well as in-depth briefing on similar copyright lawsuits involving other superheroes (e.g., Superman), please see Paul Slade’s superb recent article, Superheroes in Court. And for those of you who want an explanation of how copyright termination works, jump to the recent podcast on that topic by the IP Colloquium.

Who Owns Captain America?

In January, Marvel Comics filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking a declaration that all of Jack Kirby’s creations belong to Marvel under the “work -for-hire” doctrine.  This month, the Kirby kids have retaliated by filing suit against Marvel and Disney in federal court in Los Angeles seeking a declaration that the copyright termination notices they sent out last September are valid, and that the copyright in all of Kirby’s characters —  including Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Thor, and the X-Men — will revert to the heirs over the next several years.

The timing of the suit could not be better — given Hollywood’s continuing fascination with superheroes, and the upcoming release of the first Captain America movie, the litigation theatrics should commence shortly. Stay tuned for further details, and be sure to check out  Eriq Gardner’s article in the The Hollywood Reporter.