Which characters are concerned? Most of the superheroes central to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, together with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Unusual, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, and Thor.
And which creators are we speaking about? Those that served termination notices are the estates of illustrators Steve Ditko and Don Heck, the heirs of writers Don Rico and Gene Colan, and the 89-year-old Larry Lieber, comics author and artist (and brother of Marvel legend Stan Lee).
What’s the dispute, precisely? It hinges on one query: whether or not these artists created the superheroes as works made for rent — that’s, below employment by Marvel — or as unbiased works made on a contract foundation, then offered to Marvel. If it’s the previous, as Disney argues, then the termination notices are invalid and Marvel holds onto the copyrights. If it’s the latter, possession of the characters should partially return to the creators or their heirs.
And what would that imply? That Disney must ship the estates a portion of (however not all) the income of any new works that use these characters. Marvel movies are profitable, to place it mildly, so some huge cash is at stake. Be aware: the regulation right here solely applies to the U.S., so Disney will in any case get to proceed controlling the IP abroad.
The place does animation come into this? Marvel has used these characters in a variety of animated productions, most just lately the Disney+ collection What If…? And extra is coming: the studio has just lately signaled its growing commitment to animation.
Is there precedent for this type of case? Sure. Disney zealously guards its IP. From 2009 to 2013, Marvel fought the heirs of comics legend Jack Kirby over the possession of characters like Thor and the X-Males; two courts sided with Marvel earlier than the dispute led to a settlement. Normally, Disney has lobbied intensively for the legislative extension of copyright phrases, with much success.