Legal update: Superboy, Superman

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superboy35 Legal update: Superboy, SupermanJeff Trexler does the heavy lifting of updating court motions on the Superboy copyright case. Among items of note: director Bryan Singer is to be deposed, and Jim Steranko and Mark Evanier have filed declarations in favor of the Siegel family. There is a separate Superman case ongoing (in which the Siegel family claims to own 50% of the copyright interest in the character elements originated by Siegel and Shuster, who created the character. That case goes to trial on January 22, 2008. Can you say verrrrrrrrry interesting, boys and girls?

Comments

  1. Feh, DC’s not giving up the rights, and they have Time Warner on thier side. The Shusters aren’t giving up, and they have the [possibly deserved] sympathy on thier side. If this wasn’t solved already, why is this diffirent? [that's not sarcastic, other than the big name witnesses, it seems similar]

  2. Jeff Trexler.

  3. Well, so much for Steranko and Evanier ever working for DC now…

    Ok, seriously, Siegel and Shuster signed away the rights decades ago. Why are their families fighting for this? It comes down to greed. Give them some money and they’ll go away.

  4. Chris says:

    Mark Evanier is going to be writing “The Spirit” which is published by DC Comics.

  5. And I will bet that DC would love to publish more Steranko work regardless of his testimony.

  6. Jason says:

    Have to disagree with KB. It’s not greed and, even if it was, who cares, it’s not like DC or Time Warner are non-profit organizations.

    Usually publishers have creators over the barrel legally and creators get screwed. However, Siegel and Shuster have some pretty good legal arguments that are totally valid. Namely that DC failed to properly file copyright forms concerning Superman and under US law Superman might revert back to the original owners.

    Some people have little sympathy for Siegel and Shuster. They sold their character for a song and failed to forsee its longterm worth, and their miscalculation would be something that they would just have to live with as a poor business decision. If true, doesn’t that mean DC’s inability for see the longterm legal ramifications of not filing the proper legal paperwork was a miscalculation that they’re going to have to live with?

  7. When has Steranko ever done anything for DC?

    ~

    Coat

  8. Why do both parties want to get rid of Bryan Singer? What does he have to do with ownership of the “two” properties?

  9. StevenRowe says:

    >Ok, seriously, Siegel and Shuster signed away the rights decades ago. Why >are their families fighting for this?

    KB, – congress redid the rights law when they changed the copyright law.
    Congress gave back the rights to freelance creators after a set period of time. So what they signed away decades ago, has no effect on their new rights. DC has settled (and paid off) many creators for the rights to their 30s-40s creations in the past few years. This law is also why Marvel denies that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko co-created anything in the 1960s – (Lee was not freelance so the law doesnt apply to him)

  10. Jake W says:

    “When has Steranko ever done anything for DC?”

    Superman #400

  11. Yes, Siegel and Shuster did transfer the copyrights to Superman to DC back in the 1940s. It’s got nothing to do with any failure to file copyright forms (that was an argument used in the DC vs Fawcett suit), but changes in US Copyright Laws in 1976 allowed the original copyright holders (or their heirs) to terminate the transfer and reclaim those rights by filing a notice of intent, which the Siegels did years ago. This lawsuit was brought by the Siegels (Shuster’s rights are a separate case because it was filed separately) because DC/Warners denies that the Siegels have recaptured the rights under the law.

    This is potentially a huge deal – DC/Warners makes a LOT of money on Superman (comics, movies, “Smallville”, licensing, cartoons, etc.) , and if the Siegels prove to the court that the Superman copyright is indeed theirs, DC would be ordered to pay up.

    Even if they win the copyrights, DC still has the trademarks, so it’s not like they can license Superman to Marvel, for example. Around 2013 or so, Superman is scheduled to pass into public domain anyway, but again, DC still holds the trademarks so nobody can really do much with the character without violating the trademarks.

    In my non-lawyerly opinion from reading what’s been publicly available, I forsee the Siegels winning the case and licensing (or selling) all rights back to DC for a hefty sum.

  12. Bartholomew Fair says:

    http://www.law.louisville.edu/students/thebrand/2006/08/21/who-owns-superman/

    Barring any more extensions of the duration of copyright protection, Superman, at least in his original form, will enter the public domain in 2033. That is, assuming Disney doesn’t pay off more members of Congress to extend the time period that trademarks can exist. Otherwise characters like Mickey Mouse would already be a part of the public domain…

  13. Wouldn’t the copyright expiration date vary for each instance of Superman? Meaning if each piece of art & text with Superman is copyrighted, that copyright endures from the moment of its creation (or publication, I suppose). So as the copyright expires on comics that were published monthly, don’t they expire monthly, as opposed to all instances of Superman entering public domain at once?

  14. Whatever the outcome of these two cases, in the end some money will change hands (likely a LOT of money if T/W loses), and DC will still own both Superboy and Superman.

  15. Yes, one must remember that when Siegel and Shuster originally sold Superman to DC it wasn’t for ever and ever. The copyrights were only supposed to be at DC for 28 years, then the character would enter public domain. Then everybody (including Siegel and Shuster) could use the character and make money off him.

    But the copyright has been extended repeatedly since then, which is horribly unfair to the creators. If they knew DC would still have exclusive rights to the character 70 years later, a much different deal might have been worked out. Due to changes in copyright law the companies that bought characters now generate MUCH more money off them, because they own them for a much longer period than original intended.

    But none of that extra income is going to the creators of said characters. That’s called getting screwed and it’s not the creators fault that the politicians changed the terms of the deal after the contract was signed and agreed upon. Which is why there is now a law allowing for creators to get their copyrights back.

  16. “The copyrights were only supposed to be at DC for 28 years, then the character would enter public domain.”

    28 years … PLUS 28 years renewal for properties created during or before 1977. Congress extended it to 28+28+17=75 years … then extended it again to 95 years.

    Disney is lobbying big time. They want the mouse to remain their’s an no one else’s.

    So … Superman’s first appearance would have enetered public domain in 1994 … then it was pushed back, via copyright extention, to 2014 … and now 2034 …

    The interesting part to me is that some people are decrying the copyright extention as illegal. Congress did it to benefit the corporate fatcats … but some are arguing that the copyright extension should not be retroactive. I wonder how many people automatically assume “This was created 56 years ago, it must be pulic domain”, then find themselves on the business end of a lawsuit when they reprint something. Most people seem to believe that copyright law hinges on their feelings, and not the actual law.

  17. Jake W –

    What, a pin-up? I know he’s done a couple of Batman ones for various anniversary issues – but is that a full blown story?

    Jeez, why can’t I remember this stuff anymore?

    ~

    Coat

  18. There’s alot of legal mumbo jumbo to wade through on this also. Basically, while Siegel and Schuster did sign away rights, copyright laws were more limited then and the copywrite eventually came back to them. It was again resold to DC, but in 2004 had to be renewed, and the heirs are claiming sole ownership of the Superboy character once more. If the court rules that Superboy is derivitive of Superman (which DC does have the rights to) and not a separate character entirely, then DC wins.

  19. Actually I though it was the other way around, that the current Copyright laws exploit them and the reason they are allowed to file now is because the new laws create an injustice. But in 1947 SS settled AGAIN giving the rights to Superman to DC for 100K. And AGAIN in 1975 they took yearly payments which DC has paid for those rights. In 1997 they filed yet again to reclaim while receiving the payment. DC has tried to settle this third time and even paid an advance of 250K in good faith that an agreement would be reached. And yet, given they are saying the 75 agreement is no longer valid (while still accepting payments) and DC paid in good faith; They are accusing DC of not disclosing they were going to lose the rights in an attempt to gain more money (while in the same breath saying they didn’t do enough to maximize profits/exploit the franchise)

    O.o
    headdesk

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