Jack Kirby’s Family Loses Appeal For Marvel Copyrights
Tally another legal victory for the Big Two vs. comic creator heirs. A federal appeals court ruled today that the family of Jack Kirby, the artist who famously co-created characters including The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Thor, The Silver Surfer and the X-Men, can claim no rights to those Marvel Comics characters.
The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision that declared Kirby had given up any copyright claims he could have had for characters he co-created between 1958 and 1963, because his creations fell under work for hire. Here's what U.S. Circuit Court Judge Robert Sack wrote in the court's ruling:
Marvel's inducement, right to supervise, exercise of that right, and creative contribution with respect to Kirby's work during the relevant time period is more than enough to establish that the works were created at Marvel's instance.
Kirby's heirs brought their suit over the characters in 2009, as the push to make huge-grossing movies featuring characters Kirby co-created (like The Avengers, which has made more than $1.5 billion) was really heating up. Marvel and parent company Disney countersued the next year.
Today's decision comes as a real blow to creators trying to reap an ownership stake in their past character creations. One creator trying to do that, Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Frederich, is set to go to court in his suit against Marvel this December.