To say July 28th was a rough day for Stan Lee Media, Inc. is an understatement. The company that claims rights to Marvel’s characters lost two motions in different courts, on the same day, requiring it to pay Disney over $220,000 in legal fees.
Stan Lee Media, Inc. (“SLM”) was a company founded by Stan Lee but is no longer owned by or associated with the comic legend; the company bears his name and that is is. The dispute between SLM and Marvel / Disney has been fought in countless courts across the country. To sum up the dispute, SLM 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 one dispute in Pennsylvania, SLM sued to intervene in a dispute between Marvel and a theater group that was performing parts of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark without a license from Marvel; the theater group claims to have rights from, wait for it….SLM. You can read more about this case here. 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.
The Copyright Act permits the winning side to be granted its attorneys’ fees in the court’s discretion On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania court exercised this discretion and awarded Disney a whopping $140,960.73 against SLM in attorneys’ fees and costs. The court held that SLM’s position was “marginal” and the SLM has exhibited a “nothing to lose” mentality by filing cases across the country. The court gave SLM something to lose in order to “discourage [it] from continuing this game.”
The day was far from over for SLM. In Colorado, fighting over the same issues with just Disney this time, the court awarded Disney $81,962.50 in attorneys’ fees and costs after a victorious appeal. This case went all the way up to the appeals level with SLM losing again. Previously, for the case, Disney was awarded $240,00 in fees, after some testy words from the judge for inflating its bills, and you can read more about that here.
In total, the day costs SLM $222,923.23. SLM is not at all likely to pay any of this amount. The company has been in and out of bankruptcy in the past and these loses do not help the company’s bottom line. Maybe these fights will end with after this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for SLM.