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Signs Deal With Corbis For Rights Management

By Published on .

LOS ANGELES -- After successfully crossing over its superheroes into movies, Marvel Enterprises hopes its cast of comic book characters will soon make the leap into advertising.
Image: Marvel Comics
Marvel had never taken full advantage of the image-licensing business because it lacked the internal resources to do so.

As part of a multiyear deal, Marvel has partnered with rights clearance agency Corbis to license its vault of images that features the company's 5,500 characters, including Spider-Man, The X-Men, Incredible Hulk, Captain America and The Fantastic Four.

Microsoft's Bill Gates

Corbis is the world’s second-largest image-licensing company, wholly owned by Microsoft chief Bill Gates. Its biggest rival is Getty Images.

The deal will also cover footage from movies such as Columbia's Spider-Man franchise, Fox's X-Men, Daredevil and Elektra and New Line's Blade installments.

Corbis will negotiate the rights to license Marvel's digital content worldwide for use in print and broadcast advertising campaigns, and other forms of media. Seattle-based Corbis has offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

"Marvel's character brands are recognized around the world," said Gary Shenk, Corbis' senior vice president for editorial image licensing and rights services. "Their vast library of superheroes offers advertisers an inspiring new way to tell their stories with iconic characters and images."

Marvel's previous low-key licensing

Until now, Marvel had yet to fully take advantage of the image-licensing business,
Image: Marvel Comics
Marvel had never taken full advantage of the image-licensing business because it lacked the internal resources to do so.

of which stock photography generates $2 billion in revenues each year. Marvel had just started to license its characters for use in a wide range of consumer products and services including apparel, toys, collectibles, snack foods and promotions. But those deals were handled internally, when calls came in from companies looking to use the characters in their ads. Marvel just didn't have the internal resources to handle requests or digitize the thousands of images in its library.

"It was a business that Marvel didn't proactively pursue," said Tim Rothwell, president of Marvel's worldwide consumer products group. "It wasn't a priority. We just realized there's a void here and tremendous value in our characters. It's a very lucrative area of business. Now we're trying to make it a priority.

"This agreement reflects our strategy to prudently mine our character portfolio by teaming with industry leaders in each area of commercial opportunity.

Rival D.C. Comics

Marvel-rival D.C. Comics, owned by Time Warner, has already found success in licensing characters like Superman and Batman. Last year, an animated Superman starred alongside Jerry Seinfeld in a series of branded entertainment spots for American Express.

Such branded entertainment advertising is what Marvel would like to pursue for its own characters.

"That's exactly the types of initiatives we're looking for," Mr. Rothwell said.

Corbis' searchable database

While much of Marvel's library of electronic art, clip art, digital art, comic book art and posters are already digitized, Corbis is building a searchable database of the licensable material.

Jill Cook serves as Marvel's licensing manager, reporting to Mr. Rothwell. She is based in Los Angeles.

The company has also already started to take requests for art that could appear in campaigns in Europe and Asia.
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