Marvel Studios
(Photo : Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Avengers: Infinity War)
Marvel Studios

In a stunning series of lawsuits that may determine the future of the MCU, Disney's Marvel is suing to maintain full ownership over Avengers characters. Many of these characters include household names, such as Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, Black Widow, and others.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, these lawsuits have come about due to complaints from many of the heirs of such pivotal comic creators, such as Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Gene Colan. Marvel is suing to make the Avengers characters ineligible for copyright termination, alleging that these characters were created as work for hire. Under current copyright termination law, authors and their heirs can only claim rights to their works from publishers after waiting a statutory period, and for many comic book creators, that time is coming up.

To put into focus what Marvel stands to lose, if the comic book giant is unsuccessful in their pursuit to make the character ineligible for copyright termination, Disney would have to share co-ownership of these Avengers, who are the center of their billion-dollar franchise. Notably, since the termination of copyright law only applies in the United States, Disney would then share profits with the plaintiffs when it came to profits made in the U.S. Any profits made in foreign markets would still be controlled by Disney.

The comic book industry has faced similar lawsuits before, most notably when the heirs of the creators of Superman unsuccessfully sued for termination of copyright with DC Comics. In a fateful carryover from that lawsuit, the heirs of Marvel's creators are being represented by Marc Toberoff, who also represented the Superman creators in their suit. Similarly, Dan Petrocelli, who represented DC Comics, is now representing Disney in their bid to keep ownership of the Marvel characters.