What about Jack? Kirby estate files notice of copyright reversion aainst Marvel, Disney, Sony, Universal, Paramount…
And now, the other shoe drops.
Jeff Trexler points to this New York Times piece saying that the Jack Kirby estate sent notice of copyright termination to Marvel, Disney, Sony
Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and
others who have been making films and other forms of entertainment
based on the characters Jack created or co-created for Marvel.
The Kirby estate lawyer is Marc Toberoff, the man representing the Siegel estate in the Superman copyright case, who has already done an excellent job of raking DC and Warner Brothers over the coals. Toberoff has an impressive winning tally; Nikki Finke reminds us that Toberoff has also won or settled lawsuits on Lassie, Get Smart, The Dukes of Hazzard, and The Wild Wild West.
Kirby battled Marvel for years over the return of the physical artwork to his comics,
and was asked to sign documents that would have irrevocable and
specifically signed away rights to the characters, something he refused
to do. This led to heavy coverage in the industry, including the ad at right from 1986.
Two immediate questions come to mind:
1. Does this potentially sour the Disney-Marvel deal? Disney said in a statement, “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.” Really? You think Disney shareholders are ready to spend four billion dollars on intellectual properties they’re prepared to lose in seven years? Related: there’s a $140 million dollar kill fee Marvel has to pay if the deal doesn’t go through. Does this mean that Marvel has an extra 140 million reasons to settle with Jack’s kids?
2. If the copyright reversion is settled with Marvel and/or Disney, does this give them additional leverage in breaking existing contracts with other movie studios? In other words, does that “right to make X-Men movies in perpetuity” hold up if they don’t control the rights to the underlying characters?