Known collectively as "The King," among comic fans, Jack Kirby co-authored and created some of the most well-known comics and characters in the industry, including "The X-Men," "Incredible Hulk," "Spiderman," "Iron Man," and "The Fantastic Four," to name a few.
Kirby's four children have been struggling to exercise their rights under the U.S. Copyright Act, which allows both authors and heirs to terminate old copyrights after a specific amount of time, and return the rights to the author or his estate. If successful, the copyrights would revert to the Kirby family sometime in 2014.
Marvel disagrees, stating that the works Kirby contributed to the company were considered "works made for hire," and the copyrights were sole property of Marvel Entertainment.
Marvel filed a law suit on Friday, January 8, 2010, asking the court system to invalidate the copyright-termination notices served to Marvel (owned by Walt Disney Corporation) by the Kirby family back in September.
Marvel continues to maintain that Kirby's work was "made for hire," and Marvel itself is the actual author and owner of the works Kirby contributed to the company, which would invalidate any claims the Kirby heirs have to the copyrights.
If the Kirby family is successful in obtaining the copyrights to the characters their father created, they would be able to license said characters at their own discretion, or at least ensure a share in profits in projects where the characters were used.
The Kirby family is represented by lawyer Marc Toberoff, who recently recaptured copyrights for the family of Jerry Siegel, who co-created "Superman." Neither the Kirby family nor Toberoff have made a statement to the press at this time.