The fate of the Avengers is in the hands of the law. In a court filing even more serious than the Sokovia Accords, Disney‘s Marvel unit is suing to prevent the MCU’s most famous superhero team from falling into copyright termination.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for the company behind the blockbuster superhero franchise: if they lose the copyright on the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and co., the studio would be forced to share the Avengers’ identities with the heirs of their creators (i.e. the estates of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan, and others).
According to reporting by The Hollywood Reporter, the copyright for Spider-Man was the most recent to risk lapsing. Ditko’s estate filed a “notice of termination” on the character last month.
Essentially, under copyright law, creators or their heirs have the ability to gain the rights originally granted to publishers like Marvel through a termination provision, but only after waiting a specified length of time. In the case of Spider-Man, the rights to the friendly neighborhood web-slinger would be handed back to Ditko’s estate in June of 2023.
However, Marvel is hitting back at the lawsuit by claiming that each of its iconic characters is a work made for hire, thereby making the rights to Spider-Man and co. ineligible to be terminated.
If Disney loses the lawsuit, though, the entertainment giant would be forced to share profits from the MCU with the plaintiffs, while still maintaining partial ownership over each of the characters. However, the copyright issues would only be valid in the U.S., allowing Disney and Marvel to keep their Thanos-like grasp on the superhero team throughout the rest of the world.
While Denis Villeneuve may think the Marvel franchise is turning audiences into “zombies” these days, WandaVision earned Marvel Studios its first-ever spate of trophies at the 2021 Emmy Awards. And while Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have ruled over the tentatively re-emerging summer box office, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Eternals and Hawkeye will continue Phase 4 of the MCU later this year on both the big and small screen.