Where will Spiderman go?



Fans watch as Disney/Marvel and Sony fight over the rights to comic character Spiderman.

Derek Dophied, Staff Writer

Recently, Sony and Marvel have publicly failed to reach a deal concerning the Marvel fan favorite character, Spiderman. Whether you are a long-time comic book aficionado, or you just thought The Avenger films were entertaining, chances are you have heard of this ordeal through your preferred social media feed. But what’s actually going on?

Sony has held movie rights to the Spiderman character since purchasing it from Marvel Comics in 1999, prior to Disney’s purchase of Marvel in 2009 and the subsequent existence of Marvel Studios.

In 2015, Sony was coming off the back end of two failed Spiderman films (The Amazing Spider-man and The Amazing Spider-man 2). They agreed to allow Marvel i.e. Disney to use the character in their films with the stipulation that all Spiderman films would be released by Sony, essentially giving them all promotional benefits and box-office revenue while Disney would reap all merchandising profits.

Like most things in Hollywood, money became an issue. During Sony and Disney’s renegotiations, Disney went in with an ambitious proposal of a 50-50 box office revenue split, which Sony rejected thus fueling the social media meme frenzy you may have seen recently.

Some viewers have questioned why Disney cannot just use Spiderman anyways. Simply put, Public domain laws.

The laws of public domain in regards to pop media have drastically changed over the last few decades, becoming longer with more loopholes and instances in which producers try to find ways to get around the laws. “Well, we can probably use it” – any producer ever. But when it comes to character usage, the laws are pretty straightforward.

Early 20th-century copyright terms allowed publications to remain copyrighted for up to 56 years. Extensions made in the 70s and 90s retroactively extended the copyright term of everything created between 1923 and 1977 that was still copyrighted by 95 years. Since The Amazing Spider-man hit shelves in 1962, he will not reach public domain until around 2060.

Is there anything good about studios owning rights to characters that their consumers love? Well, yeah. As Ethan Prus, a longtime fan, says it has positives and negatives. “Sometimes we’ll get garbage like X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox), but sometimes we’ll get Logan,” he explained.