A Termination Notice Is Not A Lawsuit, But At Least One Journalist Is Really Confused

From here, an article entitled:
Kirby Estate Sues Marvel – Notices of copyright termination sent to film studios.

The estate of comic book icon Jack Kirby has filed a copyright lawsuit against Marvel Entertainment, challenging the company’s — and its new potential corporate parent, Disney’s — long-term rights to certain characters. But Marvel and Disney aren’t the only companies getting pulled into the fray; so are all the film studios producing movies based on characters that the late Kirby helped create during the Silver Age of Marvel Comics.

The New York Times reports that lawyers for the Kirby estate have “sent 45 notices of copyright termination to Marvel and Disney, as well as Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and other companies that have been using the characters.” Paramount is distributing Marvel’s four upcoming self-produced movies: Iron Man 2, Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America and The Avengers; Fox holds the screen rights to the Fantastic Four and X-Men characters; Sony has Spider-Man; and Universal holds the screen rights to Hulk. None of the studios would comment for the Times, but Disney said in a statement that “the notices involved are an attempt to terminate rights 7 to 10 years from now, and involve claims that were fully considered in the acquisition.”

(What’s curious about the copyright termination notice sent to Sony is that their only Marvel movies are Spider-Man and Ghost Rider. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko have always been credited as the co-creators of Spider-Man, although there has long been debate over the extent of Kirby’s involvement in the creation of the wall-crawler, as recounted here. Are the Kirbys looking to challenge Sony’s claims to Spider-Man?)

Bleeding Cool reports that the Kirby estate’s claims, “if found valid, would begin from 2014 and, as always, its worth noting that Marvel/Disney will still own the trademarks of the characters in comics, and the studios in movies. The likelihood is that, if successful, the Kirby estate would enter into negotiation with Marvel over terms to continue publishing comics based on his work.” The Times adds, “If Mr. Kirby’s four children were to gain the copyright to a character Mr. Kirby helped create, they might become entitled to a share of profits from films or other properties using it. They might also find themselves able to sell rights to certain characters without consent from Marvel, Disney or the various studios that have licensed the Marvel properties for their hit films.” …

There may be a lawsuit involved somewhere, but exercising termination rights under the Copyright Act does not require litigation. Too bad this journalist didn’t seem to understand the Disney statement he actually quoted: “the notices involved are an attempt to terminate rights 7 to 10 years from now, and involve claims that were fully considered in the acquisition.”

ETA: At least the NYT seems to have a clue.