Okay a few links to tide you over.
Comics Should Be Good! has an FAQ written in non legalese, and and interview with copyright attorney Brendan McFeely:
Despite the Court’s explicit ruling, several factors remain in play. “[DC] does not need to account for profits earned outside the US,” McFeely said. “[The Siegels] have only recaptured these rights within the United States. The court also found unequivocally that DC retains all rights outside the United States. I suspect that Siegels’ lawyers will find a way to appeal this.”
McFeely continued, “It’s a bit up in the air currently exactly what this means: the Court also found that major elements of the Superman mythos were created long after the original material published in ‘Action’ #1. Lex Luthor, Myxyzptlk, Titano, kryptonite, Kandor, Brainiac, the Phantom Zone and Zod, just for starters, were all created after ‘Action’ #1. But the key elements of Superman, his abilities, his appearance, his dual identities and his basic abilities were all present in that comic, so its very likely that DC and Time Warner will have to cough up a very, very large amount of money to the Siegels.”
A few historical links. Jamie Coville’s The History of Comic Books has some of the history surrounding the creation of Superman.
It should be known that Siegel and Shuster did not share in the wealth generated by Superman. The two had sold the rights to the characters along with the first story for 10 dollars a page. Siegel did ask for increases in page rates and did get them, but they still were only getting very small portion of the income Superman was generating. A 1941 magazine article in the Saturday Nights Evening Post went into detail about how the money was being distributed. It reported that in 1940 The Superman Shop got $75,000 dollars. $16,000 of which went to pay the staff and other expenses, leaving $59,000 to split between the two creators. Meanwhile Harry Donenfeld was bragging to reporters his take home pay from Superman was around $500,000. The article writer believed it to be half that, Liebowitz would only admit that it was over $100,000. Superman Inc., the company set up for Superman licensing made 1.5 million dollars that year. There was no mention on how much DC co-owner Jack Liebowitz was getting paid.
Mike Catron’s page has a letter Jerry Siegel wrote in 1975 attempting to get publicity for his continuing attempts to get what he felt was his share of the profits of Superman.
Obviously, this case will go to appeal, and the legal battle will go on for years and years. I couldn’t find any mention anywhere of the age of Joanne Siegel, the original inspiration for Lois Lane, but she has to be in her 90s. Begin to ponder the years of fighting this woman has gone through, and this legal victory — one that has come not through any groundbreaking legal precedent, but through the application of established copyright law — and you can’t help but think the good guys have won, at least for a day.
With that in mind, the attitudes displayed on many message boards accusing the Siegel family of “greed” or worrying that this is a terrible decision for the character of Superman are stunning examples of ignorance and selfishness. They are the reason we have laws that apply a higher degree of ethical and moral judgement than the rabble is capable of. Granted, copyright law is the not a subject that the man or woman on the street would be expected to have a sound grasp of. But the case of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel – living in poverty for years even as a character no ever denied they created made hundreds of millions of dollars — is infamous as one of the most unfortunate examples of financial disparity in the history of intellectual property.
And with his shaman’s magic, Grant Morrison managed to get their story, once more, into the pages of All-Star Superman. The story of Siegel and Shuster is the story of comics, in all its shoddiness, inspiration and endless battle.
The law finally caught up.