It would seem the children of legendary comic book creator Jack Kirby want some of that four billion dollars that changed hands between Marvel and Disney a few weeks back. Earlier this week, The Kirby estate issued 45 notices of termination of copyright against Marvel. If acted on, it means Marvel could lose control of characters such as The Silver Surfer, Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and Thor (to name just a few). Of course, Marvel would seemingly never let such a pantheon of characters go so this could end up turning into a windfall for the Kirby kids in the way of royalties.
It’s hard not to compare this case with the ongoing actions between Warner Brothers (specifically DC Comics/Entertainment) and the estate of Superman creator Jerry Siegel. Siegel’s family is seeking to regain the rights to Superman from DC. Actually, the connection is closer then you may think. You see, the law firm representing the Siegel family, LA-based Toberoff and Associates, is the same one acting on behalf of the Kirby family.
The timing of the Kirby case is certainly beneficial to the family. While Marvel alone had pretty deep pockets to seek compensation from, Disney’s are even deeper. Interestingly, however, this could prove to work against them as the House of Mouse has a large enough war chest to keep this legal battle going for a very long time; which is how long this may take to resolve as the termination notices would not take effect for about another ten years (when the current copyrights expire). Regardless, we’ll keep watching these cases as they could set some interesting precedence in copyright law and rights for content creators in the future.