While family members of creators are suing Walt Disney Studios and Marvel over who owns the rights to Marvel’s library of characters, word has arrived today that Stan Lee Media is getting in on the act, too.
Stan Lee Media is claiming they own the copyrights to Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, X-Men, and pretty much everyone on the Avengers list. This is a pretty trippy suit from a company that has been in and out of court almost since the day it was formed, so read the bit from Variety closely as it explains it much better than I could.
In its suit, Stan Lee Media claims that Lee (who is no longer associated with Stan Lee Media) assigned the copyrights to the characters to a predecessor company in 1998. But in November 1998, the suit contends, Lee signed a written agreement with Marvel Entertainment in which he “purportedly assigned” rights to the characters to Marvel. Because he had already assigned over the characters to Stan Lee Media, Lee “no longer owned those rights” and the Marvel agreement “actually assigned nothing,” the suit states. Stan Lee Media claims that it publicly recorded Lee’s copyright assignment agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. But Stan Lee Media says neither Marvel or Disney has ever recorded Lee’s agreement with Marvel to the office.
I haven’t followed everything Stan Lee Media has done since its inception, but the general feeling from some of those involved indicated that SLM may not be as reputable as it once appeared, and certainly the continued lawsuit against and from the company, as well as the bitter statements made by some of those involved with the company over the years.