Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel has settled with the heirs of a comic book artist, ending what The New York Times calls “ a bitter and long-running legal dispute over the ownership rights to Marvel superheroes like Thor and the X-Men.”
Financial details of the settlement with the heirs of Jack Kirby weren’t disclosed.
The story reports: “With potentially wide-ranging repercussions for both Disney and Hollywood as a whole, the United States Supreme Court had been prepared to consider whether to hear the case in a private conference on Monday.”
Marvel said the legal disputes were “amicably resolved” and that it and the family were “looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
The four children of Kirby, who died in 1994, had been fighting to reclaim the rights to characters their father created between 1958 and 1963, including Captain America and the Incredible Hulk. Both characters have formed the basis for film franchises, TV shows, theme park attractions and toy lines, the report notes.
The story reports: “The Kirbys based their case on a provision of copyright law that, under certain conditions, allows authors or their heirs to regain ownership of a product after a given number of years.”
The Times adds: “Because of long-term licensing agreements made by Marvel before the Disney purchase, a legal victory for the Kirbys would have touched almost every corner of Hollywood, not just Disney. For example, Sony holds long-term movie rights to Spider-Man; 20th Century Fox has the equivalent for the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Universal Studios holds Florida theme park rights to the Hulk and other characters.”