****Stan Lee Media, Inc. keeps pushing its luck and this time Disney has threatened to request sanctions against the company. On Friday, in a perplexing legal move, Stan Lee Media again sued Disney claiming that it is the true owner of rights to Spider-Man.
As detailed below, Stan Lee Media claims that Marvel transferred rights to Spider-Man and other Marvel characters before such rights were transferred to Disney. Court after court has said this is not the case. Most recently, a Federal Court in Colorado ruled in Disney’s favor in this matter. You can read about the Colorado case here. By Disney’s count, this matter has been decided five times in its favor. This hasn’t slowed down Stan Lee Media though in trying to re-litigate the matter.
On Friday, Stan Lee Media sued to intervene in a dispute between Marvel and a theatre group that was performing parts of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark without a license from Marvel; the theatre group claims to have rights from Stan Lee Media. Stan Lee Media again seeks to be declared as the owner of the copyrights to Spider-Man.
Since the same legal issue cannot be disputed time and time again, Disney’s lawyers threatened to seek sanctions against Stan Lee Media for this alleged abuse of the judicial process. We will await Disney’s next move. * *
Originally published on November 6, 2013
When I think that the matter is finally settled, Disney owns rights to all of Marvel’s comic book creations and not Stan Lee Media, someone throws a monkey wrench into the whole situation. In an unbelievable cross-over that is worthy of a comic book story line, many of the cases that I have written about recently have collided. A theater company in Pennsylvania that was performing “Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark” without permission from Marvel says it had gotten permission from the true owner of the rights to the character, Stan Lee Media…oh boy.
In September, 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. You can read all about that case here.
In a stunning defense to this claim, ETG asserts that it has permission through a licensing agreement to exploit Spider-Man from its real owner, Stan Lee Media, Inc. Recently, Stan Lee Media has lost several attempts to gain rights to many comic book characters by claiming that Stan Lee transferred all the rights to the characters to Stan Lee Media Inc. before rights were transferred to Marvel. You can read about these decisions here. These attempts by Stan Lee Media have all failed and Marvel has been adjudged as the owner of rights to Spider-Man.
Not only has ETG used a reported licensing agreement as a shield against claims of copyright infringement from Disney but it is using it as a sword against Stan Lee Media and is now suing them in case they do not own rights for breach of contract. ETG is asking the court to again decide whether Marvel or Stan Lee Media owns the rights to Spider-Man; but if Stan Lee Media does not own such rights, then ETG wants Stan Lee Media to pay any accessed damages for copyright infringement because it relied upon the licensing agreement. Of course, this licensing agreement does not justify the infringement of Disney’s other works at issue such as “The Lion King”.
This is a doozy of a case for this blog and we will keep it monitored. I do not think the court is likely to reconsider the dispute concerning ownership of Spider-Man again since that matter has been determined by several other courts already.