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Jack Kirby Heirs Send Notices of Copyright Termination to Marvel, Disney

| 23 Sep 2009 14:14
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Heirs of the late Marvel artist and creator Jack Kirby have determined that it is copyright clobberin' time.

Jacob Kurtzberg (1917-1994), also known by his pen name of Jack Kirby, was a legendary figure within the early days of Marvel Comics (even before it was called Marvel Comics). He co-created some of the biggest names in the comic book industry of all time, including Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk, many of which have become mega-million dollar properties. Understandably, Jack Kirby's heirs now want a piece of the pie, and have sent 45 notices of copyright termination to Disney, Marvel, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and other companies in what appear to be attempts to regain these rights for themselves.

When I say "appear," it's because copyright law is the most complicated structure of all time, at least to me. Nevertheless, I can pretty much understand that Kirby's heirs want to get their hands on some dough, and who wouldn't? Now seems like a good time to serve these notices, as maybe Marvel or Disney would be more likely to negotiate in light of the recent deal in progress for Disney to purchase Marvel Entertainment, which still has not been finalized. The timing doesn't seem likely to be a coincidence, for whatever reason.

Kirby's heirs are being represented by Toberoff & Associates, the same firm that represented the Siegel estate in a copyright claim surrounding Superman. That case saw the rights to Superman's original story revert to the co-creator of Superman Jerry Siegel's heirs, which makes me think that the Kirby heirs have a good chance here to gain something as well.

But, there will be a few years before anything does revert, as the earliest notices of termination would take effect in 2014. Disney issued a statement on the issue, saying that: "The notices involved are an attempt to terminate rights 7 to 10 years from now, and involve claims that were fully considered in the acquisition." I sure hope so. That'd be pretty lame to think you were getting the X-Men and having to settle for the Rocket Racer instead.

Source: NY Times

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