The complaints, obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, came after the estate of the late comics artist Steve Ditko filed a notice of termination with the US Copyright Office for the copyright of Dr Strange and Spider-Man. Both characters are currently held by Marvel Entertainment. However, Ditko co-created both alongside the late Stan Lee and his estate is looking to terminate the grant of copyright to Marvel by June 2023.
Ditko’s estate filed the notices back in August, amid a flurry of others filed by intellectual property lawyer Marc Toberoff on behalf of the estates of comics artists and writers such as Gene Colan, Don Heck, and Don Rico. The notices seek to reclaim rights over several iconic characters including Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, and Captain Marvel.
Marvel responded to the notices with a series of lawsuits, arguing that the characters are “work made for hire” and, as such, the Copyright Act’s terminations provisions do not apply.
However, speaking to The New York Times, Toberoff said, “At the time all these characters were created, their material was definitely not ‘work made for hire’ under the law. These guys were all freelancers or independent contractors, working piecemeal for car fare out of their basements.”