Stan Lee Media, Inc. (“SLM”) and Marvel may have finally made peace in a long dispute. SLM has many times over…and lost… asserted that it is the owner of rights to Spider-Man among several other hundred of Marvel’s comic book characters. These claims may have finally come to an end.
To sum up the dispute, SLM (no longer owned by or affiliated with Stan Lee but still bearing his name)  claims that in 1998, Marvel, transferred rights to Spider-Man and other Marvel characters before such rights were transferred to Disney.  SLM never asserted rights to the characters until it started filing lawsuits in 2007 and never even announced it had rights to the characters while Marvel continued to distribute comic books and license out the characters for movies. Court after court has tossed SLM’s claims out with last week’s comics.
In September 2013, Disney sued Entertainment Theatre Group (“ETG”), who puts on a show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that takes bits and pieces of many Broadway shows including Disney’s “Mary Poppins”, “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and has actors sing the copyrighted songs and dress like the characters in the show.  ETG failed to get permission from Disney to exploit the copyrighted works.
In a stunning defense to this claim, ETG asserted that it has permission through a licensing agreement to exploit Spider-Man from its real owner, SLM. SLM sued to intervene in a dispute to once again claim ownership to the superheroes. The judge in this dispute ruled that SLM could not claim copyright ownership to Marvel’s characters. The court said ownership of the characters has been addressed in multiple courts across the country and it is already decided: Marvel is the rights’ owner.   Long story short, when one court has decided a legal issue, other courts cannot rehear the same arguments on the same issue. The case pressed on though.
Disney has officially dropped the curtain on ETG and SLM which will be the sixth time that the courts have ruled that Stan Lee Media does not own rights to Spider-Man and other Marvel characters, Disney does. The court also issued a permanent injunction stating that ETG and SLM cannot contest Disney’s ownership to Spider-Man and other characters, nor infringe their copyrights and trademarks. Should Stan Lee Media decide to litigate this issue for the seventh time, it could be forced to pay liquidated damages of $25,000 per the judge’s order.
Let’s at least hope SLM has finally come to its Spidey senses and not try to litigate this issue…again.
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