Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have settled their long-running copyright dispute over characters he created for the studio. This comes just days before the matter was to be taken to the Supreme Court.
This is their joint statement:
"Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Jack Kirby's significant role in Marvel's history."
Jack Kirby was a 'work-for-hire' who helped Stan Lee create some of the biggest characters in the Marvel universe, most of which are now either raking in big bucks on the big screen or soon headed there. He held no rights to such famous works as Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the original X-Men and a number of other characters both well-known and obscure.
The settlement between Disney, Marvel and the Jack Kirby estate is confidential. It is speculated that Jack Kirby's family has been compensated quite well with the settlement coming this late. The estate notified the SCOTUS that they officially want their petition dismissed.
Family heirs Lisa Kirby, Neal Kirby, Susan Kirby and Barbara Kirby failed repeatedly in lower courts before taking the matter to the High Court on March 21. According to Deadline:
In their petition, the heirs wanted SCOTUS to rule in favor of their assertion that they had the right in 2009 to issue termination notices on 262 works that the comic legend helped create between 1958 and 1963. Those 45 notices went out to Marvel/Disney, Fox, Sony, Universal and Paramount Pictures and others who've made films based on the artist's characters under the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. Marvel sued in 2010, after failing to reach an agreement back then with the Kirby family to invalidate the termination notices. Jack Kirby himself passed away in 1994.
Marvel and Disney have made billions off the work that Jack Kirby helped created, so it comes as no surprise that a settlement was reached. Having the case go to the Supreme Court would have been a bad PR move for both Disney and Marvel, and it would have also thrown their rights into turmoil had the estate won, as Disney would have had to negotiate for millions of dollars with the family on Marvel's The Avengers franchise and Guardians of the Galaxy, which includes Jack Kirby creation Groot.
The estate, had they won in the high court, would also be owed royalties from the billion dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise that dominates the current box office landscape. This would have also caused a ripple effect as copyright lawsuits would have been filed throughout Hollywood, including those at Warner Bros. and DC Comics, by freelancers or other work for hire artists looking to gain from their past creations.
Despite objections from Disney, the Supreme Court was set to take a conference on September 29 to see if they would actually hear the case. Jack Kirby's Estate had a lot of support, with SAG-AFTRA, the WGA and the DGA in favor of having Jack Kirbys' petition granted.
Lawyer Marc Toberoff also represented the heirs to the Superman creators in their long copyright battle with WB and DC, but he was more successful with the Jack Kirby victory announced this weekend.