Stan Lee Media Sues Disney for Billions Over Comic Book Rights

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 11, 2012

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Stan Lee Media Inc., a company founded by but since unconnected to Stan Lee, is bringing a copyright lawsuit against Disney over such household Marvel comic book names as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, The X-Men, and The Fantastic Four. 

While Stan Lee Media Inc. (SLMI) is no longer in business, the company claims that in 1998, Stan Lee signed over the rights to all of his Marvel characters to the company. To complicate matters, Stan Lee Media is not the only one with such a contract; apparently, Lee signed over the same copyrights to Marvel Enterprises in the same year. However, the lawsuit alleges that Stan Lee Media’s contract came first, and that after Disney bought Marvel in 2009, the copyrights were never registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.  

Stan Lee Media, therefore, claims that Disney never legally obtained the rights to produce movies based on Lee’s characters. In the lawsuit against Marvel and parent company, Disney, SLMI is asking for the maximum amount of damages they can obtain, which tops in the billions, based on the massive amounts of money generated by such films as X-Men First Class, The Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man 2, and Thor

Lawsuits to this caliber tend to ignite long, arduous legal battles. The burden is on SLMI to prove not only that Lee signed over the Marvel character rights to them first, but also that they are entitled to damages from Disney’s recent use of the characters. In addition, statute of limitations may come into play as civil actions such a copyright infringement lawsuits must be brought within three years of the violation, in most cases. Disney is famously a legal force to be cautiously reckoned; many are speculating that SLMI has a chance to prevail in the lawsuit, but a small one at that. 


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