Robot 6

More legal maneuvers in brutal battle over Superman

Superman

Warner Bros. has filed another round of motions in its increasingly nasty legal battle with the families of Superman’s creators, and their attorney Marc Toberoff.

The studio sued Toberoff in May in a move designed to force him to resign as the lawyer for the heirs of Jerry Siegel, who in 2008 successfully terminated the original 1938 transfer of copyright for Action Comics #1. The 65-page complaint accused Toberoff of manipulating the Siegel family and the estate of Joe Shuster into rejecting “mutually beneficial” longtime agreements with DC Comics, and making arrangements that would give him “a controlling financial interest in the families’ collective claims.” Toberoff responded by accusing Warner Bros. of conducting “a smear campaign,” and in August filed motions to dismiss, citing California laws designed to curb lawsuits intended to intimidate the opposition through delays and legal expense.

Now, The Hollywood Reporter’s THR, Esq. blog reports, Warner Bros. has filed five separate motions in an effort to keep its lawsuit alive. The studio, represented by Dan Petrocelli — he successfully defended The Walt Disney Co. in a lengthy battle over merchandising royalties from Winnie-the-Pooh — and a team from O’Melveny & Myers, claims Toberoff is attempting to shield himself from liability for interfering with his clients’ contracts.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18.

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43 Comments

This thing has been a mess from day one. Surely it’s beneficial to the families to have warner brothers develop the property properly. WB is one of the only companies in the world that can carry such a title, and they have proved that they can develop their properties properly as seen in Batman, V for Vendetta, The Watchmen (in contention I know) and Red.

I hope this pulls through and there isn’t any contention over superman he’s such an icon and doesn’t deserve to be destroyed over greed.

After Warner Bros. last Superman movie, I can certainly see why S&S’s families want the rights back. Idon’t think Superman Returns falls anywhere under “developing the property properly”.

@Pedro: Those contracts were signed when copyrights expired after 57 years. It’s been more than 57 years. Nobody’s breaching contract in this case, you just don’t understand copyright law.

I for one hope DC loses the rights to Superman. They basically stole the character in the first place.

Warners is getting nasty because they know in the end the courts are going to find for Sigel and shuster as they should. under copy right law. so they figure why not make it hard and nasty for the families to get to the final verdict. t plus Warner is not going to let the money they make from super man go bye bye without a fight. for this thing is going to be a blood bath all the way to the end and the final judge ment of who will own superman out right. being the sigel and shuster heirs as it should be.

Guys, the case is a whole lot more complicated than that. The Siegels already have their 50% of the rights back on the first few appearances of Superman and the associated characters, and the Shusters will get theirs within the next couple of years — but DC still owns the trademarks and all the work that’s been done in the 70 years since. Luthor, Jimmy, Perry, Lana, Krypto, Zod, Brainiac, the logo, the costume.

The question at this point is what the heirs DO own, and how profits are going to be divided up on new material.

There’s not really a high probability of the heirs taking Superman away from DC. They’re just trying to get a cut of the profits. And they’re entitled to do so, because copyright law changed back in the 1970′s and gave statutory heirs the right to terminate transfer of copyright.

@Pedro: Siegel and Shuster created Superman before they went to work for DC (then National Comics). They brought their hero to the company. They essentially were cheated out of their character — and the royalties to it — for decades. In fact, the copyright laws were updated precisely to prevent companies from taking advantage of creators the way National did Siegel and Shuster. Personally, I hope things are resolved in a way that satisfactory to both sides. DC/Warner is probably the best place to deal with the Superman mythos in toto. That said, the Siegel and Shuster heirs should hold out for everything to which they are entitled under the law.

They sold DC the character. It was not “stolen’. It was paid for. End of story.

So the S&S Families get the rights back…

And?

There not a publishing house (to the best of my knowledge) what exactly are they going to do with Superman if they get the rights?

This is a lawyer wanting to get rich.

Also known as a bag of arse.

“So the S&S Families get the rights back…

And?”

And they sell the property back to DC in an instant for Crazy Elvis Presley Money. Siegels/Shusters get paid, DC still publishes, WB makes a crappy movie. Everybody wins.

I think the heirs should not get a dime for any of this…They didn’t create any of the characters, so why should they get paid? That’s like being a rich man’s son and living off a trust fund you didn’t do anything to earn…

@michael: “They sold DC the character. It was not “stolen’. It was paid for. End of story.”

I have no idea why DC hasn’t hired you as their lawyer.

But again, the transfer of copyright expired. The terms they agreed to expired, and now their heirs get the rights back.

@lead sharp: “There not a publishing house (to the best of my knowledge) what exactly are they going to do with Superman if they get the rights?”

Well, first of all, there’s no “if” in the case of the Siegel heirs; they got their share back in 2008. What, you didn’t notice? Well, that’s because this isn’t the apocalyptic scenario people in the comments thread are making it out to be.

To answer your question, what are they going to do with the rights? They’re going to collect royalties while DC continues to publish the comics and spinoff media.

@dewey412: “I think the heirs should not get a dime for any of this…They didn’t create any of the characters, so why should they get paid? That’s like being a rich man’s son and living off a trust fund you didn’t do anything to earn…”

Yeah, that money should go to the people who actually created Superman, like Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.

The thing is both sides need each other to come to an agreement, if not they both pretty much lose. The Shusters and Segal family especially because they would not be able to use alot of what makes Superman Superman. Like for instance, if the S&S family sell him off to another company that company would not be able to make him fly, have heat vision, or all the cool superpowers he had without getting sued by Wb. The only thing there superman will be able to do is leap and have super strength. He will the new owners would also not be able to use the modern day S symbol that everyone loves and recognizes. No Lex,, Jimmy, Perry, Lana, Krypto, Zod, Brainiac. He would be a shell of himself. Then Wb still retains the rights to use the character in Europe. I just hope this case get settle and Supers stays where he belongs. Everyone keeps saying Dc stole the Supes how teh family needed money and they sold him. They did not think that the character would be as big as he is now. Its just like when a father leaves his kid then when that kids make it big all of a sudden the father tries to come back into that kids life. The thing about it is the people that are suing did not even have a hand in creating the character and they are getting paid every or month by Dc. If anything its that lawyers who is trying to steal the character, because I pretty sure this lawyer is not cheap and I bet part of his contract is that he gets a good portion of the rights to the chraracter.

Oh yeah another thing S&S started the character but his legacy was established by a whole slew of other writers and authors. They were the ones that helped keep him relevant to this day lol If not for them he would be just like the Lone Ranger and those other comic characters that are not relevant today.

This is nowhere near as dirty as to what happened to Fawcett.

This is ridiculous. DC/Warner are not saints, obviously. But they didnt stole the character, they bought it. Siegel and Shuster were paid for it. And even after that they paid more. The publisher invested millions on this character, and without this investment Superman would not be so famous world-wide like today.

Besides, Siegel and Shuster families will never get the rights for everything related to Superman. So a non-agreement is bad business for everyone. Siegel and Shuster wont be able to do much with their share of Superman, and the same for Warner/DC.

Its really annoying.

@Sam: The REASON DC “paid more after that” was because of lawsuits like this one. Siegel and Shuster sold Superman for a song, and spent the next 30 years of their lives trying to get recognition and compensation for what they’d created.

All of which is irrelevant to the point of the case, which is that their heirs are ENTITLED to get the rights back. It doesn’t matter if National paid fifty cents or fifty million dollars for the rights to Superman, that agreement has expired.

On the whole, though, you’re right — neither DC nor the S&S heirs will have a complete property when all this is over, and the most likely result is that they’ll reach a deal.

so according to copyright law, if you replace superman with say……. LSD, anybody who makes LSD has to pay albert hofmann’s grandkids to keep making it.? it’s no wonder the beatles claim “lucy in the sky,with diamonds” was about a picture one of their kids drew,

DC didn’t buy Superman. They bought the right to use the character for a limited time period. That’s totally different. Siegel and Shuster trid to reclaim the character after 10 years and were cheated by their lawyer who made a deal with DC. The DC guys at the time were nearly gangsters. That’s where the side of greed has been. Then the law kept lengthening the lease, so much so that it became nearly impossible to live long enough to reclaim your intellectual property.That’s why the law provided for the heirs to recover the property. I’m sure Siegel and Shuster would have preferred recovering it after 28 or 56 years as originally established rather than dying.
And by the way DC stole the Superboy idea to Siegel too. They didn’t pay him for it.
DC will have to make do with Kal-El of Krypton while the Siegels will make do with Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Superman.

@spardyman: I think you’ve managed to pull a rare trifecta and actually confuse copyright with both patent AND trademark.

Inventions, including pharmaceuticals, are not covered by copyrights, they’re covered by patents. And names of things are covered by trademarks.

At least your example is more fun than the hoary old “So if I sold my house…” comparison, but it’s just as wrong.

They should give Superman to Grant Morrison. He pushed the character to hights that no one ever could.

Thad: Thanks for bringing some clarity to a very confusing situation. If I ever need a copyright lawyer I’ll know who to call!

This is great news,if S&S families get the copyright”s nothing warner bros can ever do about it since without superman they cannot use the stories of krypton,or anything related to superman post S&S creation. Warner Bros stand to lose much more than the families as they can hold out as much as they want.

What they should do is dangle the property to Marvel since Disney can now back them up financially for the property. regardless if DC owns the shield symbol,krypton,etc. It will just stick it to WB so badly that eventually they will pay a king’s ransom to get Superman back.

This will probably remain an ugly situation to the point where we get a year or two of comics that can’t touch on certain subjects because of rights issues, but I’ve got to think that, in the end, the two sides will come to some kind of an agreement. With the rights to different aspects split between the two parties, neither one has a truly viable whole with which to move on for any long period of time without the other party. WB will eventually need those aspects that S&S control. S&S will have a hard time taking the rest of it elsewhere without the aspects that WB controls. We’ll probably end up with a situation similar to Pooh with Disney, where Classic Pooh is separate from the Disney stuff, but in this case both will still be WB but S&S will get a much more sizable cut of Classic Superman paraphenalia.

Let them have a taste of their own medicine. I sincerely wish they lose Superman and his ‘copyright’ is sold to Sony or hell to Disney itself. Really want to see Mark Millar’s take on it.

All you people that want DC to lose the rights are morons. Superman would have been nothing without DC and WB pushing him.

@El Doucheo Bago

Thanks you. I agree everyone keep saying they hope s&S get him back like they were the ones who built the character to what he was WRONG!!! If anything the character hit his stride because of the famous tv show starring the late George Reeves and who can forgot the movie that pretty much made him an icon Richard Donner Superman staring the late Chris Reeves. If not for that movie and all who was apart of it the character would not be as big as he is. I mean everytime someone does anything with Supes they use something from that movie. Eve Krypton and the fortress of design came from that movie. Also people cannot let go of the Chris Reeves or George Reeves version of that character. The theme song Superman have that everyone loves did that come from S&S no. The famous S design what he uses now not the old one that S&S but the iconic one that he wears now DC did that. The cartoons and such all DC and WB. Superman was the one that started the Superhero film genre if not for Richard Donner and his crew hitting out the park Superman would be like Green Lantern was before G Johns brought him back in the lime light.

@ Alex
Warner would not be hurting if they lose Superman. You know why because Superman is not as big as he once were. Batman is their baby now. You here it everywhere from people how they do not like Superman because he is a boy scout and his costume sucks and such, and they always end the conversation with the only character I like from Dc is Batman. If anything Wb makes most of their Superman money from merchandise pretty much the S logo which they own the rights too. Guess what the S&S cannot use that logo so they would not be able to get money from that. Everyone knows and loves that S symbol. Wb also makes their money from you guessed it from the Richard Donner and Chris Reeves Superman movie.

Hey they can always bring Shazam! (Captain Marvel) to the fore front.

MORALY Siegal & Shuster themselves should have gotten a HUGE payday when they were alive.
But you cant change what happend.
The great F**King grand children do not deserve a dime for ANYTHING superman related.

TIME WARNER & DC comics make superman what he has been since S&S stopped makng the comic back in what the early 40s?

Does Gene Rodenberrys great grand children deserve royalties for the New STAR TREK FILM?

The founders & creators have an estate. If they mismanaged how their estate is to be handled in the WILL– then F**K the decendants!!! Thats right F-U! go get a friging job.

Decades from now the great great grand chidlren of SEAN CONNERY will deserve a cut of the newst JAMES BOND FILM???

Listen if these creators got screwed when they were alive then thats a shame. but tough $hit.
They are DEAD. case closed.

If for any reason DC and Warner did lose the rights to the character, it would be as he was invisioned at his first appearance.

No Flight (could leap 1/8th of a mile)
Anything larger than a tank round (pre WWII) could kill him
No Kryptonite (Created for the Radio Program when the actor was sick)
Was able to lift a car but not much more.

His powers as they are recognized now are the results of other writers during the “Silver Age”, on radio and the Fleisher cartoons where it was request that he be able to fly as it was too difficult to animate him leaping during the shorts.

For those of you proclaiming that the heirs do not deserve anything, yeah, whatever. I guarantee that if the shoe was on your foot, you would be all about getting your hands on your families creation.
I know I would.

S&S sold the character for $100. Back then that was equal to about $1000. Still not much considering that National was making a couple million a year off of the character.

S&S Created Superman, Clark Kent, Luthor (prototype was from the first story of the character) The Idea that he came from another world. The “S” shield. the modern version would be seen as a varient of the original design. Look no further than the McFarlane/Gaiman case where Dark Ages Spawn was considered a variation of Medevial spawn.

they also created his origin.

Most of the other things about the character were either created by the various media licensors in order to overcome issues they dealt with in their own medium. Those things were later adopted by DC. Not created by them.

Q: What would the Heirs do if they got the publishing rights back?

A:Well I would take the character from DC. I would then go to another publisher and make a publishing deal with them to bring the character out as he was originally intended. with the limited powers.

Honestly, that would be the best thing that could happen to the character.
Hear me out…superman is supposed to be the greatest hero of all time right? Not because he is so strong that everyone listens to what he says, but because of his virtuous nature and his upbringing in Smallvile having shaped his life.
All of that has steadily been eroded away by writers who mistake -strength- for virtue.
If you want to show that character as being the best of all of the others, you have to show a character who will leap into the situation, no matter what it is or what the personal risks may be to himself, as long as he can help save another.
Modern Superman is a joke because the only way to challenge him is to have a world ending event. They have so many of those in the DC universe, that I am suprised there are any buildings still standing.

So I hope they win and pull it from DC. Time Warner was never part of the situation since they have only owned DC for about half of that history.
all they are concerned with is losing a money stream.
Just look at the changes going on right now. I give Time/Warners 2-3 years before they close the DC publishing division and just licence their characters out so they make money without investing any money.

Best of luck to the S&S Heirs.

I agree with demoncat 100%. Warners is just using stall tactics to hold on to superman as long as it can and to make thing as hard for the Siegel family and the estate of Joe Shuster as they possibly can. I hope the executives at Warner Bros. all burn in Hell

Brian from Canada

September 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Lots of knee-jerk reactions without reading WHAT this case is really all about!

Warner’s isn’t suing the Seigel & Shuster families. A judge ruled that the copyrights of Superman, Lois Lane and Clark Kent sold to National Periodicals were eligible for reversion under the copyright extension act. The rights reverted to one of the families first (Seigel, but I could be wrong) and Warner’s IMMEDIATELY sat down to write up a new licence that would keep the character going uninterrupted and make both sides very happy. Further decision has to be made regarding Superboy and its ancillary products like Smallville, but deals will follow that judgement no matter what.

It’s who’s making the deals that Warner’s have an issue with.

Warner’s is alleging that their lawyer is taking percentage of ownership in lieu of payment, or manipulating it so that best deals are passed for ones that give him a bigger pay off. It is a legitimate gripe when you think about it: if you were paid 10%, wouldn’t you advise your client to pass on the $50k deal when $60k might be possible with more threats and push?

Warner’s is not to blame for defending copyrights they bought even if the circumstances of that purchase have been questioned. Warner’s owned them, and not fighting to keep them would have been irresponsible business practice. It’s also irresponsible not to say that pay outs have to be justified. They’re not the villains here now, they’re just a corporation.

And they’re crying foul about a lawyer, NOT the families.

I support creator rights and not corporate douchers who hide behind even bigger doucher lawyers.

If Warner Bros. lawyers were smart they would bring up the compensation deal that WB made with Siegel and Shuster around the time the first movie came out.

GreggN wrote :

> > “So the S&S Families get the rights back… and?”
>
> And they sell the property back to DC in an instant
> for Crazy Elvis Presley Money.

Or to Marvel.

Marvel wouldn’t know what to do with Superman. See : Sentry, The.

So many people don’t understand how this really won’t affect DC’s publishing of Superman. Frankly I’m surprised the people crying “DURR HURR SUPERMAN IZ BAD KARAKTUR I HOPE HE IS MAKED TO GO AWAY” are even capable of reading comic books.

I think that S&S’s families do deserve a little piece of the enormous Superman pie.

The way that both of them were treated is inexcusable. It’s the least they could do.

It’s not like DC/Warner Bros. can’t afford it. The greed astounds me.

soo we are all superman fans here right? so why would you want S&S’s families to get our man of steel? Fair or not they will ruin the charicter’s that we have grown to know and love. Superman is ment to stand for more than money. I for one think that it is outragous that S&S’s families are trying to obtain our worlds hero to make a quick buck. If they get him it will tear the charicter apart.The fact of the matter is, if they really cared about what they created so long ago, they would not even attempt somthing like this. This whole thing threatens to obliterate the morals and selflessness that superman is.

@annoyed fan: If Siegel and Shuster had been fairly compensated during their lifetimes, they would have left that additional money to their families. Furthermore, while you can perhaps make the argument that their children haven’t contributed to the character, neither have most of the people making money off him today.

All of which is essentially irrelevant anyway. The original copyright transfer has expired; the statutory heirs have a right to reclaim it.

@LiL Truelove: As I’ve argued earlier in the thread, no, very little is likely to change in the Superman comics themselves once the rights revert to Shuster’s heirs (and they already HAVE reverted to Siegel’s). The only difference is that the heirs will be getting royalties. You can hyperventilate all you want about how Superman stands for truth, justice, and the rights of corporations not to give money to the families of artists, but I can assure you Siegel and Shuster themselves felt quite a bit differently about how National/DC/Warner treated them.

@Brian: A fair analysis, and maybe Toberoff really IS an opportunistic ambulance chaser — there have been allegations to that effect from other corners. But it feels a lot like they’re attacking the messenger rather than the message.

@Thad- Trust me when I say that the families should recieve royalties for creating superman, as it is only fair and honest. Although I feel they should not change a thing about him or the backround that surrounds the current superman that we know today. From the time superman was created, his persona has changed over and over to comfort and become a symbol of hope in the eyes of the generation’s that have witnessed him become who he is today. I do not want the super hero that I have come to admire change because of our human need to gain wealth from every aspect of our lives.My point is superman and what he stands for should never befall changes because of the selfish desire that is human nature. Just leave it alone, I for one do not give a rats ass about who benifits from the sales of superman, as long as they continue to be true to the morals and selflessness that superman is.

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