New Superboy ruling

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Jeff Trexler has the decision and report on the latest ruling in the Superboy case in which Joanne Siegel and Laura Siegel Larson are suing Time Warner for the rights to Superboy, The latest ruling seems to have gone against the Siegels, according to Trexler: The entire decision is posted here.

In a nutshell, the court ruled in favor of Time Warner’s motion to reconsider the prior ruling in favor of the Siegels and vacated the relevant portions of the earlier ruling, including part of the statement of facts.

The judge’s opinion is worth reading on several counts, especially for crisp review of the history of the Superman/Superboy cases. William Patry has a brief run-down on the estoppel issues, which will seem a bit esoteric to non-lawyers, but you should not let the law-geek bait get in the way of the judge’s analysis of whether Superboy is a derivative work. (pp. 66-71). The judge calls for further briefing on that issue but, as reviewing judges often do, lays out a roadmap for concluding that Superboy was nothing “more than a trivial variation from the pre-existing material in Superman, other comic book characters in general, or even more broadly with other comic book characters.” (p. 69)

Of course, this case is far from over, so there may be still more surprises to come.

Comments

  1. V. Smith says:

    Dammit, I just want the name Superboy to be mentioned when appropriate. Why are they still goign through all this for just a name?

  2. It’s not just the name, it’s the character. If they rule that Superboy is a separate character from Superman, then the Siegels can reclaim their copyrights and get profits off the comics and the Smallville show.

    I read through the whole thing and it’s not too bad for a non-lawyer. I summarized it on the Legion Omnicom (http://adventure247.blogspot.com/2007/08/superboys-super-lawsuit-update.html) in a few more words than Trexler did, and came to the same conclusion. They’ve got 30 days to prepare documentation on a single point: was the version of Superboy as published in “More Fun” #101 derivative of Superman (DC wins), or since the original proposal was not work for hire, was there enough copyrightable material in the original proposal that ended up being published (Siegels win)?

  3. It’s not just the name, it’s the character. If they rule that Superboy is a separate character from Superman, then the Siegels can reclaim their copyrights and get profits off the comics and the Smallville show.

    I read through the whole thing and it’s not too bad for a non-lawyer. I summarized it on the Legion Omnicom in a few more words than Trexler did, and came to the same conclusion. They’ve got 30 days to prepare documentation on a single point: was the version of Superboy as published in “More Fun” #101 derivative of Superman (DC wins), or since the original proposal was not work for hire, was there enough copyrightable material in the original proposal that ended up being published (Siegels win)?

    (sorry for the duplicate post, please remove the first one)

  4. I’m curious if the eventual decision in this case will have any impact on the Neil Gaiman vs. Todd McFarlane lawsuit involving Spawn and Medieval Spawn.

  5. I don’t think so Chris. Spawn and Medieval Spawn are different characters altogether. If Spawn and Medieval Spawn were both the same guy (Al Simmons) you’d have a derivative character. However, one is Sir John of York, the other is Al Simmons, plus you have two other unique characters created (Angela and Cogliostro) in the bargain. Both may be Hellspawns, with similar powers, but the two have different origins; and Angela and Cogliostro had no parallel characters in the title anywhere at that time. (this all happened in Spawn #9, remember)

    Superboy is a derivative character, in my opinion. He is the younger Superman, Clark Kent. His powers are the same, he is simply a younger version, and the story he first appeared in was nothing more than an exploration of the sorts of things Superman may have dealt with as a boy, which shape his future.

  6. Mark Tague says:

    The legal ramifications are what they are. And the outcome based on narrow readings of the law will probably favor of Time Warner. But, oh how I hope that it is decided for the Siegel heirs, so that up in Comic Book Heaven, the sorely maltreated St. Jerry, can look down and smile in contentment of true financial recognition for the founding of an industry. In the words of Marvin Gaye “Can I get a witness? Somebody, somewhere, saying it ain’t fair.”

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