Saturday, February 21, 2015

Will the Real Stan Lee Please Stand Up

A recent court case involving Stan Lee Media and Marvel’s parent company, Disney, may have created some unnecessary confusion over the rights of Stan Lee’s globally acclaimed comic book characters. The October case was an appeal of a 2012 court decision regarding a copyright infringement suit against Disney for $5.5 billion. Stan Lee Media claimed that Disney stole the rights to the Marvel characters. However, the headlines should cause no alarm for Marvel fans, including diehard fans of Lee’s work.

Last December, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the previous dismissal of the lawsuit, resulting in a resounding ‘no’ for the plaintiffs. This decision should only be a point of celebration for the Marvel community because it further severs the ties with a company no longer associated with Lee himself—Stan Lee Media. The comic book mogul’s namesake may still be attached to the entertainment company, but the creator ended the relationship years ago. Stan Lee Media has since been trying to get a piece of the pie anyway they can, even if it involves legal bottomfeeding tactics; in fact, this is Stan Lee Media’s seventh attempt at claiming the copyrights. The 10th Circuit would have none of this, however, and agreed with the Disney counsel that “there was no conceivable way the company could state a viable copyright claim.”

The headlines make the issue sound much worse than it really is, but any worries about the future of Marvel should be dismissed. There is no legal cause for concern over how the characters are being handled or portrayed, and, after this decision, certainly no question as to ownership. If anything, Disney has extended the Marvel brand to an unparalleled size of audience.  Marvel fans can rest assured that that their beloved characters are safe from legal obstruction and that Stan Lee’s legacy remains untarnished.

Riley Coltrin (Staff Editor, Denver SELJ)

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