Warner Bros. wins huge legal decision in Superman case—UPDATED

201301101506 Warner Bros. wins huge legal decision in Superman case—UPDATED
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a 2001 agreement between Joanne Siegel and WB supersedes the Siegel estate’s 2008 victory in a copyright reversion decision.

Meaning: it’s just about over, writes The Hollywood Reporter.

The decision follows a ruling by a federal judge in October to deny the estate of Superman’s other co-creator Joseph Shuster that ability to recapture his own portion of the Superman copyright.

Together, the decisions likely mean that Warner Bros. can exploit the Superman franchise without fear of legal hassles from the estates of Shuster and Siegel. That’s significant because Warner Bros. is preparing to release this summer’s big-budget Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan.

Hope Jeff Trexler will be along with more detailed legal analysis, but from where we sit, unless the Supreme Court takes this up, it looks like this 70-year battle could be over.
Here’s the decision:

11-55863_opinion by Jeff Trexler


Update: here’s Trexler’s quick take on the case. He’ll be back in a bit with a more substantial analysis.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the Siegel heirs did indeed reach a settlement with DC back in 2001. As a result, their 2008 victory is meaningless.

As I’ve noted throughout my posts, the law in this case weighed against the Siegels in substantial ways – Toberoff’s best hope lay was that the liberal panel of judges would take an approach similar to Judge Larson’s in 2008. If Toberoff couldn’t manage to win with this panel, it only confirms how ill-considered it was not to reach a more symbolic settlement after his surprise victory.

I’ll have more after I get a copy of all of the opinions from today’s rulings on the Siegel & Pacific Pictures litigation.

Comments

  1. Johnny Memeonic says:

    While I think Superman should have gone public domain in 1987, maybe this will finally convince the masses in comic book fandom that the law is just words on paper and twisted or ignored by crooked lawyers and crooked judges.

    When the outcome of your trial depends on which judge you get then you know something’s deeply wrong with your legal system.

  2. I think this is a horrible outcome. However, it seems on the face of it to be a valid judgment based on the actual horrible laws.

  3. Johnny Memeonic says:

    While I think Superman should have gone public domain in 1987, maybe this will finally convince the masses in comic book fandom that the law is just words on paper and twisted or ignored by crooked lawyers and crooked judges, neither of whom are to be trusted.

    When the outcome of your trial depends on which judge you get (as openly acknowledged by the lawyer who comments on this site) then you know something’s deeply wrong with your legal system.

  4. blacaucasian says:

    “This is a great day for Superman, for his fans, for DC Entertainment and for Warner Bros.,” said Daniel Petrocelli at O’Melveny & Myers, who represented Warners. “Today’s ruling vindicates DC Comics’ long-held position that it entered into a binding agreement with the Jerry Siegel family in 2001. The Court’s decision paves the way for the Siegels finally to receive the compensation they negotiated for and which DC has been prepared to pay for over a decade. We are extremely pleased that Superman’s adventures can continue to be enjoyed across all media platforms worldwide for generations to come.”

    While I do believe you should be held responsible for the deals that you decide to make, I have to admit the Warners lawyer’s words here make me a little sick to my stomach.

  5. Another victory for justice! and the little guy gets fucked again.

  6. Anthony says:

    Um, Im not sure if this is good news or bad news. Cuz right now, WB is a little screwy nowadays.

  7. Maverickman874 says:

    Who are Pacific Pictures and why are they involved in the lawsuit ?

  8. Shags says:

    I always thought that 2001 deal would factor into this.

  9. Chris Hero says:

    I’m sure this thread will be filled with lots of compassion and empathy for the Siegel and Shuster heirs. Just because Siegel and Shuster had to raise their kids in poverty, that’s no reason to think they deserve a few sheckles from all the money Superman’s made.

  10. Mark Cook says:

    I don’t think anyone can dispute it is a great day for DC and Warner Bros, at least. For Superman and his fans, I think it’s a pretty neutral day at best.

  11. This decision is like saying the George W. Bush never won the election in 2000.

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