Marvel Sues Over Spider-Man Newspaper Ads

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(AP) While its superhero characters spar with evil villains, Marvel Enterprises Inc. is left to battle with alleged copyright infringers.

On the heels of the record-smashing opening weekend of the “Spider-Man” movie, the comic-book company has filed a lawsuit against Buena Vista Home Entertainment Inc. over newspaper ads featuring Spidey scaling a building.

Buena Vista, a unit of Walt Disney Co. of Burbank, Calif., currently holds the distribution rights to the Spider-Man animated cartoon series, which Marvel has licensed since 1966.

But Marvel objects to Buena Vista’s ads announcing the April 2002 home video release of the cartoon series. The ads, which have appeared in newspapers as the New York Daily News and Newsday of Melville, N.Y., show Spidey’s body flat against the building in a classic, menacing pose.

“Marvel has not consented to or approved of such usage,” according to the lawsuit.

A Buena Vista spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached.

New York-based Marvel owns the copyright to nearly identical artwork, which it has already licensed to Activision Inc., which makes a “Spider-Man” computer game, and Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures, which released the blockbuster movie.

Marvel claims a Buena Vista representative, when confronted, “expressly admitted” that the artwork had been copied from an ad for Activision’s computer game.

Marvel says Buena Vista has promised to take “immediate, drastic” steps to destroy the allegedly offending material, but that the newspaper ads are still appearing and Toys R Us Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. continue to display posters for the series.

Marvel’s suit seeks a court order that would bar Buena Vista from using the artwork and force the company to retrieve and destroy all copies, including posters for the Spider-Man cartoon series currently in various stores.

The suit also seeks an unspecified amount in damages, and attorneys’ fees.

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