LAWS0008 The Avengers, Superheroes and the Law









Course Code LAWS0008  
Course Title The Avengers, Superheroes and the Law
Class Date 18, 19, 20, 21, 24 and 25 July 2023

(26 July 2023 is reserved for class make-up in case there is any cancellation of classes due to bad weather or other unexpected factors.)

Class Time 1:00pm – 3:30pm
Class Location TBC
Teacher Professor Steven GALLAGHER

Professional Consultant

Professor of Practice in Law

Faculty of Law

The Chinese University of Hong Kong



More about Prof. Steven GALLAGHER:

  1. ‘Class Acts’ Online Talk Series – Chinese Shipwrecks and the Law of Treasure Hunting
  2. CUHK Updates – A Lawyer’s Guide to the Art World in 116 Slides
    Steven Gallagher on the unsentimental journey of art and antiques
  3. CUHK Newsletter – Remembrances of Things Past and Sunk
    On the rescue of underwater cultural heritage and the evolving international laws


Medium of Instruction English
Course Description The recent highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe films portrayed incidents which raised many ethical and legal questions, for example, are superheroes responsible for the clean-up after a battle? Can Spiderman sue if someone discloses he is Peter Parker? Is the Green Goblin legally responsible for his actions or not guilty by reason insanity? Can there be a murder if the victim does not stay dead (e.g. Wolverine)? Can superheroes fly anywhere? The course will also consider developments in science and technology that may allow us soon to be superheroes or create superheroes. For example, biomedical ethics and the development of superman similar to Wolverine, and the freezing the resuscitation of Captain America. In considering these issues in the superhero universe, the course will provide an introduction to ethics and law for those who are interested in law, medicine and/or the STEM subjects, or who just want to consider the legal realities of a superhero’s life.
The following is subject to adjustments depending on teaching time and on the size of the class.

Session Lecture themes Tutorial exercises
  • Introduction: what ethical and legal issues arise in the superhero universe?
  • Are superheroes subject to the same laws as everyone else? E.g. Can superheroes fly anywhere or would they be subject to civil aviation and other restrictions?
  • Debate: Is acting as a superhero legal?
  • Superheroes and crime fighting
  • Are superheroes state or private actors, and how does that affect their ability to legally stop the bad guys?
  • What crimes may be committed by superheroes in their attempts to fight crime?
  • Can there be a murder or even an attempted murder if the victim does not stay dead? E.g. Wolverine
  • Debate: May anyone fight crime?


  • Liability for property damage and personal injury
  • May Tony Stark destroy his own property?
  • Is the destruction of an android such as the Vision murder or criminal damage?
  • Who is liable for cleaning up after the Avengers?
  • Do people who come back from Thanos’s disintegration still own property?
  • Group exercise: Should special rules apply to superheroes, and, if so, what should they be?
  • Prosecuting supervillains
  • Can Hong Kong courts have jurisdiction over Thanos?
  • If Loki is a god is he above the law?
  • Are the Green Goblin and the Joker legally insane?
  • Quiz 1 (on session 1, 2 & 3)
  • May SHIELD use electronic surveillance on anyone?
  • Privacy and the right to protect your identity: can Spiderman sue if someone exposes his identity as Peter Parker?
  • If a superhero gives evidence in court, will they have to remove their mask and will they have to verify their identity?
  • Debate: Should privacy give way to protecting the universe?




  • Technology and the law
  • Biomedical ethics and the development of superman, e.g. Wolverine
  • Cryonic preservation and the freezing and resuscitation of Captain America – legal issues
  • Quiz 2 (on sessions 4 and 5)
  • Debate: Are superheroes illegal?
Learning Outcomes By the end of this course:

  • Students will have an understanding of the basic criminal and civil legal issues affecting property and person which arise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films;
  • Students will have an understanding of the basic legal principles which apply to these issues;
  • Students will have a basic understanding of the legal and ethical issues which arise for superheroes.
Recommended Reading(s) / Reference(s) Reading materials will be circulated for each session.


These will contain links to further reading and online videos and discussions. For example,


Students will be required to watch open access video materials.

Course Assessment Quiz 1 (50%)

Quiz 2 (50%)

  The above course information is subject to change and approval.
  Last updated on 27 February 2023