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Does Stan Lee Media Have a Billion-Dollar Case Against Disney?

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 15, 2012 6:46 AM

Stan Lee Media has filed a lawsuit against Disney for copyright infringement but it's unclear whether that claim will go anywhere.

The first amusing fact of this case is that Stan Lee himself is no longer associated with Stan Lee Media. In fact, the comic book legend has been the victim of a lawsuit by the company. The second is that a similar suit by Stan Lee Media filed in New York was dismissed in 2009.

The actual issue goes back to 1998 when Lee was still affiliated with Stan Lee Media. But the recent success of Lee's characters has reignited the fight.

Lee created many of Marvel Comic's most popular characters, including 'Spider-Man', the 'X-Men', and 'The Avengers' which have been the subject of several successful movies.

Stan Lee Media claims that back in 1998 Lee assigned his rights in all characters he created or would create to the company, reports the Los Angeles Times. Two weeks later he reportedly assigned those same rights to Marvel.

Marvel was acquired by Disney back in 2009 but Stan Lee Media claims Marvel never had the rights to the characters Lee created. Therefore the sale to Disney could not have included those famous heroes, Stan Lee Media alleges.

As part of the lawsuit Stan Lee Media is seeking all profits from the movies Disney has made including Lee's characters.

That would include the 'X-Men' and 'Iron Man' series, 'Spider-Man' movies, 'Thor', and 'The Avengers' just to name a few.

Often the issue with copyrights is figuring out who created the copyrighted work first. In this case the issue is who actually owns the rights to that work. It's the rights-holder who is entitled to any profits made from the copyrighted work.

From the timeline Stan Lee Media gives in the complaint it seems they may have the rights since their contract came first. But given that other courts have dismissed their claims, it's possible this court will do the same.

Disney meanwhile doesn't appear to be threatened by the case, reports the Los Angeles Times. The case has no merit, according to a Disney representative.

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