Robot 6

Stan Lee Media takes another stab at Marvel character rights

Spider-manSay what you will about the shareholders of Stan Lee Media, but despite suffering one loss after another in their decade-long battle for the rights to Marvel’s best-known characters, they’re still unwilling to concede defeat.

In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Deadline, the failed dot-com now seeks a declaratory judgment that it, and not Disney or Marvel, owns Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Thor and other superheroes.

The move, which comes just three months after an annoyed federal judge dismissed their multibillion-dollar claim against Disney, springs from a lawsuit filed in September by the media giant against the American Music Theatre, which is accused of using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a stage revue without permission. In a surprise twist, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based theater responded last month that it has a license to use Spider-Man and numerous other Marvel heroes — through an exclusive agreement with Stan Lee Media. Somewhat conveniently, American Music Theatre filed a third-party counterclaim against Stan Lee Media, opening the door for Tuesday’s filing.

Here’s where we take the customary break for a primer on Stan Lee Media, which, it’s important to note, hasn’t had a connection to its co-founder and namesake for a long time: In 1998, Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter used the company’s bankruptcy to end its $1 million-a-year lifetime contract with Stan Lee, negating the writer’s assignment to the company of his rights to his co-creations. It also freed Lee to form Stan Lee Entertainment, which later merged with Stan Lee Media, with infamous entrepreneur Peter F. Paul. That company in turned filed for Chapter 11 in February 2001. Shortly after SLM emerged from federal bankruptcy protection in 2006, its shareholders began a series of lawsuits — against Marvel, Lee, Disney and others — to assert the company’s stake in Lee’s Marvel co-creations. All of those efforts have been unsuccessful.

All of the lawsuits filed by SLM’s shareholders hinge on a sequence of events that took place between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Lee’s employment, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas and signed over his likeness, and any claims to the characters. Stan Lee Media has long asserted that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company the rights to his creations and his likeness. SLM claimed in a 2012 lawsuit that neither Marvel nor Disney, which bought the comic company in 2009, ever registered Lee’s November 1998 agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Therefore, the plaintiffs argued, they actually own the Marvel characters.

Barring likely appeal, September ruling seemingly pulled the brakes on SLM’s fight against Disney, as U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez wrote that the plaintiff is “precluded from re-litigating the issue of its ownership of copyrights based on the 1998 Agreement,” adding that it would be “futile” to permit Stan Lee Media to amend the lawsuit.

However, Stan Lee Media argues in the new filing that in granting Disney’s motion for dismissal, Martinez never actually addressed the merits of its ownership claims. The company also asserts that its recorded copyrights to the characters co-created by Lee predate and, therefore, trump, any claims by Disney and its subsidiaries.



Oh just let this shit end already


What are these guys doing? They are wasting money in these frivolous lawsuits rather than developing their own properties. And Stan Lee should sue for his name back if he has had nothing to do with the company. People might misconstrue that Stan Lee himself is behind this all.

So what, exactly, does Stan Lee Media do? What product or service do they, theoretically, provide? Y’know, besides instigating lawsuits. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to figure it out.

This might be a stab in the dark — I really don’t know too much about them, this whole deal, or the laws that apply to it, so I could be totally wrong — but Stan Lee Media might be keeping the name simply because that was the name it formed under, and with that name they feel it helps empower them with the courts in their repeated pursuit of Marvel properties. Personally, I think the real Stan Lee should definitely sue them to get his name removed from these leeches, but until they are actually a company that actually produces something, they’re just a board of share holders for now, and the real Stan may not be able to do anything about it, until they name start using it publicly for productions and marketing.


…the real Stan may not be able to do anything about it, until they start using the name publicly for productions and marketing.

One wonders if can apply for a job at there, like to keep count lost lawsuits!

i’m no legal expert, but i think i can safely say these guys have as much chance of winning this as i have of winning the next US presidential election.

(I’m a Brit btw, so… yeah…)

@Fury: I’ll vote for you. President Fury has a nice ring to it! :-)

is it going to take a ruling that they don’t own the copyright to the marvel characters from the u.s supreme court to stop this crap. for one Stan lee never owned the characters they were considered work for hire. enough is enough though this thing is like the battle for the rights for superman .

One day I will own marvel charcters mmhahah. Gotta be their motivation

They’re probably a group of lawyers investing their own time (an therefore minimal money) pursuing this on the off chance in hell they get a payoff. When it’s over and they lose, they should have to repay damages to the everyone involved.

I don’t know Peter F. Paul (they main guy behind all this) personally, but if you do any research on him at all his public record paints a pretty clear picture that he is a scumbag.

@demoncat — they actually weren’t work for hire, only the artwork was (and even then, the back-of-the-cheque “contracts” for some of it is kind of shady). As a salaried employee of the company rather than a freelancer, any of Lee’s work would be considered owned by the company (providing of course it said so in the language of the contract).

Also, I meant to add, it’s fairly apparent that Stan Lee Media at this point is really looking for a settlement to go away rather than actually winning the lawsuit (that may very well have been their intention with the first lawsuit). Disney does, however, have fairly deep pockets.

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