| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 8 A federal appeals court ruled on
Thursday that the heirs of comic book artist Jack Kirby had no
rights to characters such as the Hulk and Fantastic Four which
are now owned by Marvel Entertainment, a Walt Disney Co
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier
decision finding that creations amounted to "works made for
hire" under the federal copyright laws and belonged to Marvel.
Kirby, who died in 1994, was a influential comic book artist
who among fans is closely associated with the rise of Marvel
Comics in the 1960s with former editor and writer Stan Lee.
Kirby helped create iconic characters including the
Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, Captain America and Thor,
many of which have become the subjects of recent blockbuster
Walt Disney Co bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009.
"Iron Man 3," the latest Marvel movie based on a character Kirby
helped create, has grossed $1.2 billion worldwide since May,
according to Box Office Mojo.
The lawsuit stemmed from documents Kirby's heirs served
Marvel in 2009 claiming rights to works he created from 1958 to
1963, when he was a freelance artist and drew some of Marvel's
most prized characters.
Marvel subsequently sued the Kirbys in January 2010, seeking
a court ruling declaring they had no rights to terminate the
company's rights to the characters.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in July 2011 ruled for
Marvel, finding the works constituted works for hire under the
Copyright Act of 1909.
In its ruling, the three-judge appeals panel upheld part of
"Marvel's inducement, right to supervise, exercise of that
right, and creative contribution with respect to Kirby's work
during the relevant time period is more than enough to establish
that the works were created at Marvel's instance," U.S. Circuit
Judge Robert Sack wrote.
The ruling follows other fights by comic book writers,
artists and their heirs to reclaim the rights to famed comic
In June, the 2nd Circuit revived a lawsuit by former Marvel
freelancer Gary Friedrich against the company over his rights to
the motorcycle-riding vigilante character Ghost
Trial in that case was pushed back to Dec. 16 while Marvel
and Friedrich pursue mediation and hopefully achieve a
resolution," according to an Aug. 1 letter by a lawyer for
Neither a lawyer for the Kirbys nor Marvel representatives
immediately responded to requests for comment.
The case is Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Kirby, 2nd U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 11-3333.