Marvel Settles ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Doctor Strange’ Copyright Lawsuits

This is the last of five lawsuits between Marvel and the estates of comic creators, including Spidey artist Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber

Sony Pictures

Marvel has settled the last of five lawsuits initiated in 2021 regarding various comic book characters and copyright. On Wednesday, Marvel and representatives of the late comic book artist Steve Ditko filed a termination notice in New York to resolve the final two suits, regarding the characters of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, with a dismissal set to come out.

In a letter obtained by TheWrap, the parties said they had “amicably resolved their dispute” and expected a dismissal within 45 days. The letter was sent from Marvel’s representative Molly Lens of O’Melveny and attorney Marc Toberoff, who represents Steve Ditko’s brother Patrick, to Judge Louis A. Kaplan.

Toberoff told TheWrap, “The parties reached an amicable resolution of this interesting case.”

The issue started regarding a series of copyright termination notices filed by Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber, an artist who cocreated Iron Man, Thor and other Marvel characters, as well as the estates of Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Don Rico. The group wanted to be able to own their respective comic book characters.

That would have included the Avengers, as well as the likes of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Marvel, in turn, filed a lawsuit against the group, claiming the characters were ineligible to have their copyrights terminated as they were works made for hire.

According to the Copyright Act of 1976, heirs are permitted, in certain circumstances, to terminate the grant of a license or transfer to a copyrighted work via a properly executed notice. In the initial lawsuit, Marvel referred to a similar issue involving Jack Kirby, famed cocreator of works including Iron Man, Thor and the X-Men. Kirby’s heirs wanted to reclaim their copyrights, but the federal court took Marvel’s side, arguing that the characters were made under work-for-hire agreements.

Marvel has struggled with finding new cinematic success within a changing landscape. Back in November, it was reported that the studio was considering bringing back the original Avengers for a new movie. According to actor Chris Evans, that hasn’t been told to him. Marvel will only have one theatrical comic book film out in 2024 — that being the return of Ryan Reynolds’ fast-talking “Merc with a Mouth” in “Deadpool 3.”

Reps for Marvel did not respond to requests for comment.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this article.


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