Warner Bros wants trial in Superman rights fight

Deadline is reporting that WB has changed tactics and now wants a trial in the ongoing rights battle over Superman:

In a strategic move in the copyright battle between Warner Bros and the heirs to Superman’s creators, the studio has filed an appeal to reverse earlier rulings in the case and put everything out in open court in a trial. “This long-running dispute should be brought to an end,” Warner Bros wrote in a dense 117-page appeal (read it here) filed Friday with the 9th Circuit Court. In typical Hollywood legalities, the move actually resolves nothing — expect to see a response from the heirs and then another back from Warner Bros, and all off it to end up one way or another in the Appellate Court sometime in the late summer or early fall.


The appeal is here for your weekend reading.

The battle over who owns Superman now has seesawed back and forth for well over a decade, with the family recapturing some rights but Warners winning other battles.

Comments

  1. arrowshaft says:

    That would be a bad move on WB. If they call Neal Adams for Siegel and Shuster I’m sure he will be a great witness. The jury I think would side with the little guy rather than take a Big company side who had to be made to give Siegel and Shuster any money way back in the 70’s before the first Superman movie came out.

  2. That…would be bigger than the Iran Contra hearings from the 80s.
    And I agree with @arrowshaft, a jury would not be in their favor.

  3. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Copyright law in this country needs a huge overhaul. Something as old as Superman should be public domain now, not held hostage by ****** distant relatives that didn’t create crap or the likes of the Warner Bros/Mouse syndicate that pay to have the laws say whatever they want them to say. [edited]

  4. I think copyright made more sense when it was 28 years with an optional 28 year renewal … but c’mon … one’s children can hardly be considered “distant relatives”.

  5. arrowshaft says:

    Johnny the fight for the rights began while the creators were alive. The distant relatives are the wives and family.
    It wasn’t till the 70’s when Neal Adams helped lead the lobbying efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving decades-overdue credit and some financial remuneration from DC.
    Before that they were living in poverty.
    WB has not done much only when forced or embarrassed in public. If it were to go to trail by jury it would be a big loss for the WB. With the new movie coming out it would be only to draw people to see the movie because right now the public’s over all reaction to the new movie is more a meh than wow a new Superman movie.

  6. arrowshaft says:

    meant trial by jury.

  7. I don’t know, going to “trail by jury” makes it sound all righteous and “warpathy”. Which really should be the case.

  8. jonboy says:

    “If they call Neal Adams… he will be a great witness.”

    Until they ask him about his expanded earth theory, in which case the jury would realize he’s insane.

    “Something as old as Superman should be public domain now”

    Whenever I hear this retort, I think that it’s just some ludicrous statement by some bitter person.

    And I’m also always amazed how people claim DC did S&S a big injustice, but ignore Kirby vs Marvel.

  9. arrowshaft says:

    jonboy if you know anything about what Neal Adams has done for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and all the work he has done for creators rights you would not make that statement.
    Please read up on the lawsuit and how it came to be and look up Creators Rights.

  10. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Whenever I hear this retort, I think that it’s just some ludicrous statement by some bitter person.

    Superman is 74 years old, not even counting the age of the original prototype. To put this in perspective, it’s (or should be) as ridiculous as if Mark Twain’s family or original publisher were trying to keep hold of Tom Sawyer around the time Supes first came out.

  11. If this case gets creative attorneys and an open minded judge, then maybe it may play the catalyst and help get the ball rolling for reform of copyright regulations. I think that’s what everybody wants. Not sure how realistic it is though. How we use ideas is evolving as fast as is technology. Maybe faster.
    And I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it-
    “Creative Industry” is an oxymoron.

  12. “Until they ask him about his expanded earth theory, in which case the jury would realize he’s insane.”

    Because expanding Earth theory is relevant to the Superman copyright case… how? Any halfway competent judge would squelch such line of questioning immediately.

    “And I’m also always amazed how people claim DC did S&S a big injustice, but ignore Kirby vs Marvel.”

    If you really think that people are ignoring the Kirby case, you don’t seem to pay much attention to comics internet.

    Also, there is a big difference between the Superman case, in which no one disputes that he was independently created by Siegel and Shuster, and the Kirby case, in which there is much uncertainty and controversy about whether his work relationship with Marvel should be considered WMFH or not.

  13. As I always say whenever people bring up S&S regarding Neal Adams, it was artist and writer Phil Yeh that first broke the story in the 1970s, and brought the matter to the attention to Adams.

    Regarding the absurd assumption that the courts wouldn’t side with a rich company, somebody hasn’t been paying attention to very many legal events in recent years.

  14. stam mee says:

    Superman the man of steel movie in 2013 will bomb like this years John Carter movie and last years Green Lantern movie. The Superman the Man of Steel movie will be his farewell tour.
    Luckly for DC that they still can survive on Batman comics for another decade until Batman goes into public domain.
    respectfull “Stam”

  15. arrowshaft says:

    ed did Phil Yeh pay any of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster bills out of his own pockets? Big deal he wrote a story about a article on Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In 1975, Siegel launched a publicity campaign, in which Shuster participated, protesting DC Comics’ treatment of him and Shuster.
    Neal Adams has been fighting for creators right then and even today. Neal has given money and paid bills for creators of the past who works were taken from them.
    If you think wb would win with a jury, you need to go over the whole lawsuit and not what wb has made statements on or a member of a message board. wb did not even want Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster name given credit for Superman. wb had to be forced to give credit and a small fraction of money. If wb was smart and wanted to look good they should have given a fat check to both smiled took the picture with them and made Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster make appearances for WB. That would have been the right thing to do. A jury will see what has been done.

  16. @Ed Gauthier- It’s not as simple as the public’s willingness or unwillingness to choose based on the involvement of a large company. Fans can be very territorial about what they obsess over. Likeso, Superman is total Americana now. I think there would be a similarly huge element of the public that might take offense at the notion that Supes is generally hands off by corporate dictate.

  17. Matthew Southworth says:

    “Superman is total Americana now”.

    You mean: a patriotic symbol representing the ideas of freedom, justice, and kindness that is continually tangled in legal manuevers, market saturation, irrelevant commercial licensing and corporate ownership?

    You’re right, that does sound like what Americana has become.

  18. @Matthew Southworth Well I guess it was a double entendre. I meant in the Norman Rockwell/apple pie/Back to the Future sense. But what you say is every bit as valid.

  19. superman1930 says:

    Superman technically and legally should go to the family of the creators as the time limit for Dc comics owning Superman is coming at an end.At least the copyrights as the law changed creating a window for the heirs to swoop in and terminate any old deal at a certain time period.

    Plus we have to take into account that the two families did not sign a new deal with Dc comics thus Warner Bros got no leg to stand on in this case.The family changed their minds about going through with the deal.Big whoop.This happens every day in the business world.

    Warner Bros needs to suck it up and accept the fact that the copyrights automatically goes to the heirs whether they like it or not.If this was a business associate who had walked out on a deal and not signed a contract with Warner Bros because they had a change of heart would Warner Bros take them to court?

    No.The only reason they’re doing this is because they own Dc comics and it’s Superman we’re talking about.Superman is the golden goose.He was their cash cow, literally.

  20. @superman1930
    Correct he was their cash cow, but Batman is their cash cow. By the time Dc and the Siegel heirs settle this nobody will care.
    Superman is as relevant as Tarzan or Flash Gordon now with the younger generation.
    If Captain America the much hyped Marvel can`t break 180 million last year at the domestic box office then the odds of Superman the Man of Steel doing could or none. Lone Ranger will even top it!
    Superman will fade just like Dick Tracy has faded.So this lawsuit talk is mute.
    respectfully “STAM”

  21. Thunderfist says:

    I am afraid that Arrowshaft and I will have to disagree again. It would be pointless for Toberoff to bring in Neal Adams to testify about the case. Neal Adams was born in 1941 and, therefore, would have no intrinsic knowledge about the dealings of Siegel & Shuster and DC Comics at the time period in question (1938-1943).

    If we look at the Kirby vs Marvel trial, the testimony of ‘experts’ Mark Evanier and John Morrow were ordered to be striken from the records for similar reasons.

    Neal Adams might be a wonderful human being. Siegel and Shuster might have been treated unfairly. None of that matters.

    Whether trial by jury or trial by judge, this is trial to determine whether the Superman work done between 1938 and 1943 were done under a work for hire agreement and whether the Siegels broke a deal in principle in 2001.

    Neal Adams was successful on a public stage to raise support for Siegel and Shuster. But a press conference and a courtroom are not the same venues. What works in one will not always work in the other.

  22. Thunderfist says:

    Superman1930 “Warner Bros needs to suck it up and accept the fact that the copyrights automatically goes to the heirs whether they like it or not.”

    Except that is simply not true. The copyrights do NOT automatically go back to heirs. The heirs must actively terminate the transfer of rights under prescribed rules in the Copyright Act. If they don’t, they automatically stay with the party they were transferred to.

    Second, the copyright to Superman was co-owned by Siegel and Shuster. While Siegel actually had heirs (as defined by the copyright act of 1976)when he died in 1996, Joe Shuster did not have any heirs as defined by the Copyright Act of 1976 when he died in 1992.

    The Copyright Act of 1976 stated very clearly what heirs could terminate the transfer of rights. While surviving spouses, children and grandchildren are listed, nephews were not listed.

    Shouldn’t Marc Toberoff and Mark Peary (Shuster’s nephew)suck it up and realize that they have no right to terminate Shuster’s half of the copyright transfer?

  23. Superman_fan says:

    What are the chances of WB getting back the 2 weeks of comic strips and Superman 1.

    Based on their filing I think they have a strong case on those 2. SM 1 pages were given to the families based on a rumor, not actual proof and DC has the Author admitting the pages in question where created for the comics after they were hired. The Comics strips were also don’t after DC gave the Authors permission and were not even on the termination notice. These could be major setbacks to the families if Warner gets them back, but I don’t understand how the judge could have assigned them to the families under the established conditions.

    If DC wins back its portions of AC 1 and 4, the families will lose Superman’s coloring and S-Shield. It is stated that coloring was done by DC’s staff and not the creators after they bought the rights. It is also stated that pictures which clearly show Superman’s S-shield were done after the artists were hired and Superman’s rights were purchased.

    I think DC has a strong case if they maintain the conditions that are stated to allow them to own other materials done under “work for hire”. I think they stand high chances of recapturing the comic strips and Superman 1, moderate chances of getting parts of AC 1 & 4. This would leave the family with very little.

    What do you guys think?

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