The heirs of Jack Kirby — the comics legend who made Marvel what it is today — are seeking to employ a little-used copyright rule that lets them wrest Kirby's creations away from Marvel (soon to be Disney-Marvel) and put them back under the estate's control. If they succeed, it will be awfully weird and deadlocked, though, as there will be trademarks covering the characters that still belong to Disney-Marvel; and the collectively created characters, stories, art and situations will be jointly held by two hostile parties: Disney-Marvel and the Kirbys.
My guess is that the Kirbys will end up with the economic right to the characters — a share of the profits — but not the moral right — the right to veto various uses and licenses.
The legal notices expressed an intent to regain copyrights to some creations as early as 2014, according to a statement from Toberoff & Associates, a Los Angeles firm that helped win a court ruling last year returning a share of the copyright in Superman to heirs of the character's co-creator, Jerome Siegel.
Reached by telephone on Sunday, Mr. Toberoff declined to elaborate on the statement. A spokeswoman for Marvel had no immediate comment. Disney said in a statement, "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." Fox, Sony, Paramount and Universal had no comment…
Sony has the film rights to Spider-Man in perpetuity, for instance, while Fox has the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Paramount has a distribution agreement for Marvel's next few self-produced movies, including a second "Iron Man" film. Meanwhile, Hasbro has certain toy rights and Universal holds the Florida theme park rights to Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, among other characters.
(via Making Light)