ALL HELL IS BREAKING LOOSE. Last week, Jack Kirby’s four children filed notices of copyright termination for 45 characters . The LA Times has details. This is the same legal maneuver that the Siegel family employed to get back their half of the Superman copyright. Notices were sent to Marvel, Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, suggesting that the 45 characters include many already being made into successful movie franchises.
Kirby, of course, co-created the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and hundreds more of Marvel’s 5000 characters. Copyright termination allows creators to apply for copyright reassignment after the term of the original contract runs out.
Under copyright law, creators and co-creators can seek to regain copyrights they previously assigned to a company 56 years after first publication and can give notice of their intentions to do so up to 10 years before that.
Kirby’s children would be eligible to claim their father’s share of the copyright of the Fantastic Four in 2017, while the Hulk would come up in 2018 and X-Men in 2019. The copyrights would then run for 39 more years before expiring, after which the characters would enter the public domain under current law.
The Kirby family is being represented by lawyer Marc Toberoff, who also handles the Siegel case. In Hollywood, he is known as a relentless litigator — he also represented the creator of The Dukes of Hazzard in a successful claim against Warner Bros.
Of course there’s a lot to be written and discussed about this. Jack Kirby spent many of his later years trying to get his ART back from Marvel, and he felt that he was not fairly compensated for his creations for years. It also casts a shadow over Disney’s recent acquisition of Marvel, although a Disney spokesperson said “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.”
We’ll have a bit more on this later, but in the meantime, Marc-Oliver Frisch considers how appropriate it is that this news broke on what would have been the late Steve Gerber’s 62nd birthday. (Kirby and Gerber collaborated on DESTROYER DUCK.)
AND, Jeff Trexler reports on the latest in the Siegel/Superman case, including the potentially huge news that the presiding judge is retiring in a few months.