NEW YORK — Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk can continue to reside in Marvel's offices after a federal appeals court Thursday rejected an ownership claim by the children of the artist who helped create them.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan agreed with a lower court judge who denied claims by the family of Jack Kirby, the legendary artist who died in 1994 and whose work spanned more than half a century.
His heirs in California and New York wanted to terminate Marvel's copyrights from 2014 through 2019 to comics published from 1958 to 1963.
Marvel Worldwide Inc. sued in January 2010 to prevent it, leading U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in July 2011 to conclude the work was done “for hire,” a legal term that rendered the heirs' claims invalid.
She said the 1909 copyright law that applies to the case presumed that Marvel was considered the author and owner of Kirby's creations because the characters were made at Marvel's expense.
The appeals court agreed, saying that when “Kirby sat down to draw, then, it was not in the hope that Marvel or some other publisher might one day be interested enough in them to buy, but with the expectation, established through their ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship, that Marvel would pay him.”