Marvel Fights to Keep Rights to ‘Avengers’ Characters

Takeaway: If your employees are drafting creative materials for your company, take note in the employment agreement if the work is a work made for hire. Artists (or their estates) may lose their right to terminate a grant of copyrighted work and recapture their rights if it is a work made for hire, and thus your company keeps the rights.

Marvel, a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary, recently set into motion five lawsuits in an effort to protect its copyrights. Marvel is going after the estates or relatives of its late writers and artists who previously fought for copyright termination rights on various Marvel superhero characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man and Black Widow.

Termination rights were added to the Copyright Act of 1976 and allowed artists (or their estates) to terminate a grant of copyrighted work and recapture the rights. Marvel has fought back arguing that the rights of the act do not apply in this situation since the work was a work made for hire. Thus, Marvel ultimately concluded that the rights solely belong to the company.

For example, in one complaint against the relatives of late writer Don Rico, Marvel said it “assigned Don Rico stories to write, had the right to exercise creative control over his contributions, and paid him a per-page rate for his contributions. As a result, any contributions Don Rico made were at Marvel’s instance and expense, rendering his contributions a work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s termination provisions do not apply.”

We will keep you posted on the outcome of these cases.

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: www. denofgeek .com /movies/could-marvel-lose-full-ownership-of-spider-man-and-avengers-in-new-lawsuits/