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  1. #1
    Keeper of the Torch Ravin' Ray's Avatar
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    Post CBR: Steve Ditko Estate Attempts to Reclaim Spider-Man, Doctor Strange Copyright

    The estate of comic legend Steve Ditko is attempting to reclaim copyright on Ditko's co-creations, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, from Marvel Comics.

    By Brian Cronin

    The estate of comic book legend Steve Ditko has filed notice of termination with the United States Copyright Office with regards to the copyrights of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange that are currently held by Marvel Entertainment. Ditko, as the co-creator of both of the characters, is attempting to use a right introduced in the 1976 Copyright Act that allows creators to terminate copyrights of works that the creators had previously assigned to another person or entity.

    More info here.
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  2. #2
    Extraordinary Member John Venus's Avatar
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    If this isn't dropped in a few months and we don't see DISNEY LEGEND STEVE DITKO emblazoned around the next investors meeting, colour me shocked.

  3. #3
    Dark Dimension Clea's Avatar
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    I'm intrigued about how this will turn out.
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  4. #4
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    Interesting.

  5. #5
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    This is very interesting.

    I'm not going to give any opinion on this because Spider-man's creation has been mired in a lot of controversy.

    Ultimately, I suspect Marvel/Disney will settle the Ditko estate.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member mugiwara's Avatar
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    Never gonna happen, but I sure would love it.
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  7. #7
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Did a cross-thread for it on Spider-Man's forum...but let me say it loud and proud:

    SUE 'EM FOR ALL THEY GOT

    Sue the pants off that mouse.
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  8. #8
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    The most likely outcome is a settlement of some sort. It's very similar to the situation with Superman and the Seigel estate a few years back suing DC/WB for copyright termination that resulted in a new deal where every comic where Superman appears has the phrase "By special arrangement with the family of Jerry Siegel" on it. The settlement allowed the Siegel estate to share in the revenue Superman creates and ensure the Siegel name is always attached to his greatest creation.

    If the Ditko estate wins the suit, the copyright on those earliest issues is terminated, but Marvel/Disney will still hold the trademarks, meaning the Ditko estate couldn't do much with the copyrights. They would own the content but not be able to use Spider-Man or Doctor Strange in titles or marketing the content or on new material based on it. However Marvel couldn't use the elements introduced in those actual comics any longer (like costumes, supporting characters, secret identities, etc.), so there are no real winners in that situation, at least financially. The Ditko estate will have won the case, but gotten little out of it. However, a settlement allows the estate to benefit and a larger share of the revenue the characters generate. I am rooting for the Ditko estate to get the deal they deserve and that should have been given long ago. All the legal wrangling now will be about leverage in the eventual settlement, not about the case making it to trial to see who wins.

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  9. #9
    Latverian ambassador Iron Maiden's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Did a cross-thread for it on Spider-Man's forum...but let me say it loud and proud:

    SUE 'EM FOR ALL THEY GOT

    Sue the pants off that mouse.
    Ditko never pursued any legal action in all those years. I think he would deserve to for Doctor Strange but the Spider-Man situation is not as clear. Stan Lee came to Jack Kirby with the idea first and Kirby did work up some pages that Stan rejected. He then went to Steve Ditko with his idea. Ditko made a brief statement about it in an interview of sorts (he rarely did them) back in issue #2 of a fan publication called Comic Fan.

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    It is known that Ditko did receive some financial compensation because a neighbor of his that rented space in the same building that Ditko leased an office accidentally got a piece of his mail mixed in with hers...

    I had given up on my first stakeout after waiting for 45 minutes, but I returned two days later and rode up to the seventh floor once again. The soft voices of the TV hummed inside. Knock knock. Nothing. Ring ring. Nothing. Ditko’s next-door neighbor, an entertainment-industry manager, came out to see what was going on. I told him what I was doing and he said Ditko’s hearing is shot — he runs into Ditko occasionally, and lately the octogenarian’s been shouting, “What?” when the manager greets him. As we talked, another occupant of the seventh floor walked by. She said she gets in very early most days. They’ve exchanged pleasantries and once talked about lease renewal, but not much else — though she did have one intriguing story.

    “One time, about ten years ago, I accidentally got a piece of his mail,” she said, her eyebrows rising scandalously. “I opened it and then realized it wasn’t mine because that check had too many zeroes.” My body jerked up with shock — that contradicted Ditko’s claim that he doesn’t get a cut. I asked for more details. She said it was from a movie studio, and that when she gave it back to him, he just took it and said nothing. “That’s probably why he can work in that little office,” she said, and laughed. “He’s doing all right.”


    This seems very likely a case where Sony did pay Ditko for the use of the character. The first 2 Spider-man movies box office take was huge....about 750 million each.

  10. #10
    Cosmic Curmudgeon JudicatorPrime's Avatar
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    And to think, Spider-Man would have been a public domain character back in 2019, but for Disney influencing Congress to protect their own copyright of the Mouse.

  11. #11
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JudicatorPrime View Post
    And to think, Spider-Man would have been a public domain character back in 2019, but for Disney influencing Congress to protect their own copyright of the Mouse.
    That's late'90s not 2019. Congress didn't pass any PD extension in 2019 (for one thing it's gotten more controversial now that people know about this stuff).

    Quote Originally Posted by Iron Maiden View Post
    Ditko never pursued any legal action in all those years.
    Copyright law and Estate Royalties don't operate on childhood rules of "no backsies".

    There are statute of limitations (apparently one reason for this lawsuit is that 2023 might make be the cut-off point for bringing this case forward).

    "Amazing Fantasy #15 was published in 1962. Add fifty-six years to that, the window for copyright termination began in 2018 and finishes in 2023. Strange Tales #110 was one year later. Now seems to be the right time."
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    It's understood that a large evil corporation in an exploitative business creates a coercive and psychologically abusive environment that makes it hard for exploited to speak out and seek redress.

    Ditko didn't speak up legally, sure. Neither did Bill Finger but nobody would say Finger's family, descendants, and friends were wrong in seeking restitution, revenue, and credit as it happened since 2015 because Finger (for whatever reasons) just let Bob Kane and DC walk all over him.

    I think he would deserve to for Doctor Strange but the Spider-Man situation is not as clear. Stan Lee came to Jack Kirby with the idea first and Kirby did work up some pages that Stan rejected.
    I did a post recently that touched in part on the development of Spider-Man.
    https://elvingsmusings.wordpress.com...tural-history/

    One thing that's definitely not true...Stan Lee didn't come to Kirby with the idea first. That's absolutely not true. (There might be a case to be made where the Kirby Estate or the Joe Simon Estate seek a settlement with the Ditko Estate on the other hand, if the latter come out on top).
    Last edited by Revolutionary_Jack; 09-24-2021 at 05:05 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Did a cross-thread for it on Spider-Man's forum...but let me say it loud and proud:

    SUE 'EM FOR ALL THEY GOT

    Sue the pants off that mouse.
    That's going to be a bit awkward since those pants are all Mickey owns.

  13. #13
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    A settlement seems to be the best case here (and could this have anything to do with Beyond And Death of Doctor Strange?)

    As someone said earlier however, the creation of Spider-man is a bit more murky than Doctor Strange, And Ditko's personal politics play into his ideas of creation here (his philosophy was effectively that he was something creator, which is far from the truth on Spider-man).

    If i may sound like a bit of a dick to some People here, if this is retroactive Justice, then that's one thing.
    But considering anyone Who would have been able to help with the case is gone, i don't see it going anywhere far

    A settlement is the best conclusion here. Even through i hate Disney as much as the next Person And think they are a shit Company Who exploit People, i don't see them in the wrong here And it'll effectively mean we'll lose out as comic fans if Peter can't be used in the wider MU or if those early trades become OOP

  14. #14
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    If this does actually end up happening, it would be practical for the Ditko Estate to come out and confirm that Spider-Man and Doctor Strange are going to continue in some form and are not going to be shelved. Because that's exactly what the Disney PR is going to rely on to paint the Ditko Estate as the villains here. "They're trying to take these characters from you!! We're the ones that wanna save them!!"

  15. #15
    Marvel's 1st Superhero Reviresco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    It's understood that a large evil corporation in an exploitative business creates a coercive and psychologically abusive environment that makes it hard for exploited to speak out and seek redress.

    Ditko didn't speak up legally, sure. Neither did Bill Finger but nobody would say Finger's family, descendants, and friends were wrong in seeking restitution, revenue, and credit as it happened since 2015 because Finger (for whatever reasons) just let Bob Kane and DC walk all over him.

    I don't know if he did this while running Marvel, but Timely, under Martin Goodman, would put the work for hire clause on the back of the check as part of the endorsement. IOW, you couldn't cash your check, unless you also signed away the rights.

    If you spoke up, you weren't given any more work.


    I didn't know the deadline had been extended to 75 years. I wish Wendy Everett had tried to get the rights back for Namor. Given that Bill Everett didn't create the character for Timely / Marvel, but for a previous book / package, she might have actually stood a chance of winning.
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