Monthly Archives: June 2011

NYT’s Brent Staples re: Kirby and Disney/Marvel

Brent Staples, who wrote a wonderful piece in the New York Times in 2007 titled “Jack Kirby, Comic Book Genius, Is Finally Remembered,” has written “Marvel Superheroes and the Fathers of Invention.”

I posted to the Museum’s Discussion group on June 8th:


Obviously, I am not a lawyer or a copyright expert, but it seems that the case hinges on the legal state of what appeared on the page via a pencil in Kirby’s hand during those years.

It looks to me like the Marvel/Disney argument is a work-for-hire argument – that the rights to whatever Kirby put on paper were owned, at the moment he created it, by Martin Goodman who transferred to Perfect Film, which renamed to Cadence Industries, then… bla bla bla Disney.

And that the Kirby argument is that the rights to whatever Jack Kirby put to paper were owned, at the moment he created it, by Kirby, who then assigned his rights to Goodman… Disney.

This is, as I understand it, the scope of the laws that have been put in place by our US legislators, which allows creators, or their estates, to terminate the assignment of those rights a determined number of years after the works’ creation.

Look again at the back of Dick Ayers’ check from 1974. A scan is attached, hope you can see it. The text that the company stamped on the back is about the signer assigning rights to the work to Magazine Management. That means the creator/signer had rights to the work when they created it. This is important!!!!

Work-for-hire means the creator/signer is an employee who has no rights to the work when they created it. Marvel’s text on the back of the checks after 1976 (Ayers’ 1986 is also attached) does not mention any assignment of rights.

Was Jack was an employee of Goodman’s in the early 1960s? This is why there is all the talk of health insurance, vacation time, supplies, pay for rejected work, in the filings…

I re-recommend “Who owns Light Man?” an informative podcast by real, serious, hardcore US copyright experts/lawyers: