Copyright is a weird thing, and who owns them can be a very messy business, especially when the initial creators are dead and the characters have become massive cash cows for big corporations like Disney. With legends like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Gene Colan having all passed and the initial period for Marvel’s ownership of their creations coming to an end, the families of the creators are suing to reclaim the rights to characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye, as well as several others. While we’re sure this doesn’t mean that the families want to forbid Disney and Marvel from using the characters, it definitely means they want a bigger slice of the pie, a pie that DIsney doesn’t seem very interested in sharing.
That’s why Disney and Marvel are suing the families to prevent loss of the complete rights to the characters. Court cases move slow, but there’s definitely a clock here. The Spider-Man copyright ends on June 2023. In reality, Disney is probably going to win this case. If the families of Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster didn’t win when they went after the Superman copyright, it would be surprising if any of the Marvel families also succeeded. What is really happening here is the hope of a settlement. The families of the heirs to some of our most favorite superheroes are not currently getting anything for the creations of their parents. Meanwhile, they look at Disney, who is using them to essentially print money. This is more of a threat of bad PR leveraged against a desire to get a piece of the pie. It will just be interesting to see whether it gets settled in the back room or in front of a judge.