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If Twitter had existed back in the mid-1980s, things might have turned out differently for Jack Kirby and, ultimately, his heirs. Perhaps Marvel’s demand that he permanently sign away the copyright to all his work for them in return for very limited rights to his original art would have triggered the sort of online firestorm that scotched the Bank of America debit card fees, SOPA/PIPA, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s brief moment of collusion with the hard right. Then again, maybe not—the internet can be fickle.
A number of creators criticized Marvel’s actions at the time, and in the end they did soften a bit and come up with a deal Kirby could sign. More recently, Kirby’s heirs tried to claim ownership of a number of copyrights for characters he created, but the judge in that case ruled in Marvel’s favor without even going to trial. Now Change.org is giving it a second try, with an internet petition asking Marvel to make things right with Kirby and his heirs:
We strongly urge Marvel Entertainment and its owner Disney to acknowledge Jack Kirby’s authorship and primary role in the creation of these characters. As well, we urge Marvel to pay Kirby’s family royalties or other just compensation for the use of these characters and stories.
The petition calls on the signatories to boycott Marvel until that happens. So far, despite appearing on The Beat, the petition only has 229 signatures, which isn’t likely to move the sales needle enough for Marvel to notice.