Intellectual property lawyer, Marc Toberoff, served Marvel Entertainment, which is owned by Disney, with notices of copyright termination on behalf of five clients responsible for characters like Iron Man, Spider Man, and Thor. The lawsuit is looking to regain copyrights as early as 2023, and artists would receive a percentage of profits based on any future work of the copyrighted material. The Walt Disney Company has filed counter lawsuits seeking to invalidate the copyright termination notices.
The lawsuits have utilized a provision of the copyright law that allows authors or their heirs to regain ownership of a product after a given number of years. Still, then in 1976 the Copyright Revision Act allowed a work-around for Studios to terminate the claims made on behalf of work done at the “instance and expense” of an employer.
Marvel’s lawyer, Mr. Petrocelli, has said, “Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect.”
Disney’s complaint against one of the artists, Mr. Lieber, contends that “Marvel assigned Lieber stories to write, had the right to exercise control over Lieber’s contributions, and paid Lieber a per-page rate for his contributions. Those conditions render his contributions “work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s provisions do not apply.”
Attorney Mr. Toberoff goes on to explain, “At the time all these characters were created, their material was definitely not ‘work made for hire’ under the law,” he said in an email in response to Disney’s filings. “These guys were all freelancers or independent contractors, working piecemeal for carfare out of their basements.” Hence, not “traditional, full-time employees,” he said. “At the core of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of ‘work-made-for-hire.”
– Excerpt from an article for the New York Times by Brook Barnes. Read the full article here.
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