Marvel Claims Jack Kirby Was Just A Workerbee; Has No Right To Reclaim Copyright On Marvel Characters
from the and-here-we-go-again dept
Last fall, we wrote about how the heirs of famed comic artist Jack Kirby had started alerting everyone that he intended to reclaim his copyrights on various popular comic characters, such as Spiderman, the Hulk, Iron Man, The Avengers and others, using the termination right in copyright law that was recently used by the heirs of one of the creators of Superman to reclaim some of those rights. Not surprisingly, Marvel, who owns many of the characters that Kirby’s heirs want to take back, isn’t particularly pleased about this (especially since many of those characters have recently become extremely lucrative movie franchises). So it has gone to court to insist that Kirby had no right to the characters and that his work with Marvel was a “work for hire” situation, where Marvel retains all the copyrights. Kirby’s heirs, not surprisingly, disagree. They point out that Kirby worked out of his own house as a freelancer with no contract or employment agreement.
I have to admit that I’m not a fan of the termination right for copyright, because it makes a huge mess of things. However, given that it’s there, it’s really pretty sickening the lengths to which big entertainment companies will go to try to block creators from using it. Remember, these are the same giant entertainment companies who will insist time and time again that they need special government protections to “protect the artists.” But any chance they get they’ll screw those artists over. You may recall the attempt a decade ago by the RIAA to change copyright law in the middle of the night (literally) by having a staffer slip four words into a larger piece of legislation that would have avoided some of these termination claims. The entertainment industry has no interest in protecting the artists. It only wants to protect its bottom line — and if that means screwing over the artists, it will do so at every turn.