Monday, March 7, 2011
With great power there must also come — copyright reclamation!? A New York federal judge recently ruled that the heirs of legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby have asserted potentially valid copyright termination claims against Marvel Comics. If successful in their claims, the heirs will recapture their father’s rights to many of Marvel’s most popular characters, including “Spider-Man,” “The Fantastic Four,” “The X-Men,” “Iron Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” In view of these claims, this Comment argues that allowing authors and their heirs to recapture the rights to fictional characters is inconsistent with the fundamental objectives of copyright law. Such claims thwart media companies’ creative efforts, deprive companies of all certainty in their copyright ownership, and threaten public access to popular comic book, television, and movie characters. Accordingly, this Comment proposes that courts use an extended interpretation of the derivative works exception to prevent authors and their heirs from recapturing the rights to fictional characters that owe their commercial and creative success to media companies.
Download the comment from SSRN at the link.