I read a story the other day that annoys me a little bit, but should be expected. Walt Disney was given a summary judgment in their court battle with Jack Kirbey’s heirs over his art work. The ruling says that the comics and characters created by Kirby, which include most of the big names like the FF and the X-Men, were works for hire according to the Copy Right Act of 1909, and Kirby’s family is not entitled to any of the money generated by those works.
This is a pretty big deal with so many of the characters he created being featured in motion pictures, and the rights to these characters could be worth tens if no hundreds of millions.
The dispute started when his heirs sen Marvel a notice to reclaim 45 of the copyrights for comics published between 1958 to 1963. The judge, Colleen McMahon, said these notices did not conform to the federal copyright statues. She declared that a detailed review of the notices and evidence provided did not show any indication that Kirby’s work was not for hire and that he had any expectation to own his copyrights.
The attorney for Kirby’s heirs has stated that this wasn’t the end of the fight and they intend to appeal the ruling to the Second Circuit.
As a business owner I can see Disney’s argument and the law definitely seems to be on their side, but it is hard to not feel for Kirby’s family. His contributions to Marvel and comics in general is immeasurable and I can’t imagine how the field would look today if he hadn’t been involved in those early days.