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Warner Bros. seeks trial in high-stakes Superman rights battle

From Action Comics #1

In a bid to retain full ownership of the Man of Steel, Warner Bros. filed a brief on Friday asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a 2008 decision that granted the heirs of Jerry Siegel half the rights to the original Superman story, and to enforce a deal abandoned by the writer’s family seven years earlier. If the 9th Circuit chooses not to rule, the studio wants the case to be remanded to a district court for trial.

In its 117-page brief, Warner Bros. seeks to overturn the earlier ruling that terminated the transfer of copyright to the Superman story in 1938′s Action Comics #1 under the 1976 Copyright Act. The 2008 decision allowed the Siegel family to reclaim many of the Man of Steel’s defining elements, including his costume, Lois Lane, his origin and secret identity — paving the way for the estate of artist Joe Shuster to do the same in 2013 — while leaving Warner Bros. and DC Comics with such later additions as Lex Luthor, kryptonite and Jimmy Olsen. As Hollywood, Esq. reports, the Siegel heirs appealed in December 2011, arguing they should have been permitted to recapture the rights in later Superman comics, which they contend Siegel and Shuster created “on spec,” and then sold to DC for $10 a page.

The Warner Bros. brief centers on negotiations that began after the Siegel family filed the copyright termination notice in 1999. According to the studio, the heirs “ultimately struck a deal with DC — one that included every essential term for a re-grant of rights, provided for various other non-essential terms, and guaranteed the family many millions of dollars in cash, royalties, and other compensation.” But Warner Bros. claims that in 2001, the Siegels were approached by “a self-styled ‘intellectual property entrepreneur’” — attorney Marc Toberoff, who now also represents the Shuster estate –  who convinced them to renege on their deal in hopes of getting even more money.

Although the agreement with Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson and now-deceased wife Joanne Siegel was never formalized, the studio insists “a deal is a deal, long form or not,” and therefore should be enforced.

“This long-running dispute should be brought to an end,” Warner Bros. says in its brief. “Enforcing Larson’s deal will afford her tens of millions of dollars for which she bargained in 2001,while protecting the deal her own father struck in the 1930s, when DC employed him to create new Superman material on DC’s behalf.”

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46 Comments

“although the deal was never formalized”

So DC/Warners wants the court to enforce a lesser deal that no-one signed. Typical. The whole Superman empire is built on promises that never materialized and contracts that were never signed.

More than any other superhero copyright case, the Superman case is clearly not work for hire. Jerry and Joe created the character and story before bringing it to the company. Some aspects were created years before.

Cases like this are as much a mockery of writer/artist protecting copyright and the concept of public domain as any torrent site. The family members that didn’t create Superman want to hold the property hostage for a payout. The company itself is so incompetent in the handling of the property that they can’t take the obvious step of putting the animation people in editorial control of the comics people.

Superman should have been in the public domain since the late 80′s. 50 years of exclusivity since creation is plenty of years for a copyright no matter what the Mouse and its brothers can pay unelected judges to think.

Red Comet, what you are suggesting is that wealthy companies should just wait for mortal authors to die.

The Siegel/Shuster heirs have much more of a right to the Superman fortune than Warner Brothers does. This is money that they would have inherited if Siegel/Shuster weren’t cheated during their lifetimes.

What would happen if everybody’s employer said “we’re not paying you, screw you” and then when you died, the employer looks at your children and says “hey, we never signed a deal with YOU.”

Heck no. These things are being debated in court because people far smarter and far more knowledgable than YOU understand the nuance of the situation. People far smarter than YOU understand that it’s not as black and white simple as you’re pretending for it to be.

Don’t make a fool of yourself.

“Warner Bros. seeks to overturn the earlier ruling that determined the Superman story in 1938′s Action Comics #1 was not, as the company argues, work made for hire”

Huh?

How the hell can they dispute that?

Siegel and Shuster created the original Superman story independently and shopped it to a ton of different publishers before National bought it. That’s settled historical fact, with a paper trail a mile long.

I know that it’s standard practice in a lawsuit to pursue more than you want, but claiming the first Superman story was WFH is just farce.

@Daryl: Hold on there, I’m sure the people saying “DC should own these characters, no question” will arrive in this comments section any minute now, but I don’t think that’s what Red Comet is saying at all. He’s complaining about the Copyright Act of 1976 (and subsequent revisions), which is the reason we’re having this conversation at all. Without that Act, Superman would be public domain by now and neither Warner NOR the Siegel/Shuster heirs would own the rights.

He’s not saying Warner has more right to Superman than the heirs, he’s saying neither one has a right to him, which is a viewpoint I tend to agree with (though given that we ARE living in a world where the various copyright extensions have been passed, yes, I support the Siegels and Shusters, at least as far as the first few issues of the comic and the ideas introduced therein).

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”

That’s the copyright clause from the Constitution.

I want to bring your attention to the phrase “limed Times”. Since 1978 copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years, which means it may be upwards of well over 100 years before it falls into public domain. For works prior to 1978 it’s 95 years from the date of 1st publication. So 1928 + 95 years = 1923 (Mickey Mouse aka Steamboat Willy). 1939 + 95 years = 2034 (Superman). 1978 + 100 years = 2078 (who the cares since we don’t be around anyway). Keep in mind that the publication of very story and every unique element extends the time frame from the date that those elements first appeared.

Now you tell me – does that look like “limited Times” to you?

I just find it amazing that Warner Bros. would have the chutzpah to claim that “‘a deal is a deal, long form or not,’” as though the studio would ever honor any agreement that wasn’t legally binding.

I haven’t read the briefs, but I read through the Hollywood Esq article, and Kevin, are you sure it’s Action #1 that Warner is claiming was WFH? Because it looks like they’re only claiming issues AFTER #1 were WFH — which is a much more sensible claim, though it HAS been discovered that several ideas that made it into the next few issues were conceived before the sale (notably the destruction of Krypton, which the article acknowledges but erroneously reports was part of issue #1).

You’re right, Thad: Warner Bros. is referring to the pair’s post-Action #1 stories. I’ve corrected the post.

Darry Ayo, what you’ve read into my comment wasn’t what I said at all, as Thad pointed out and anyone without projection issues could clearly see. The only one making a fool of himself is you.

Again, I believe neither the company nor the family should have a right to Superman today as I believe copyright should only extend to 50 years after creation and the character should be in the public domain.

If the Seigels win this case, their lawyer actually owns the majority stake in Superman, not the heirs. That was why WB tried to have him removed from the case. Without him, a simple deal would have been made a decade ago, but this ass wants it to go on, because he keeps getting paid and if he wins, he owns Superman. He is literally the only one that wins in this case.

I don’t want to be the guy standing up for a big multi-national company, but…
Superman would NOT be a brand worth legal action over without the hard work done by National/DC/WB producing the comics/cartoons/movies associated with Siegel and Shuster’s creation. Jerry and Joe were paid fairly at the time and given jobs during the Great Depression, over time National Comics did indeed make a buttload of money cause they took a chance on a property created by some relatively un-proven talent. Sure S&S could have taken Superman to another company, but best case scenario they would have gotten a deal equal to what they got from National, and worse case Superman could have flopped and become a forgotten part of american history.

At the end of the day the heirs deserve nothing as that is what they contributed, S&S deserved a royalty cut before they died (but no say in the development of the character or holds on the copyrights) they had a chance not to take the characters to a company to publish, but they were not in a position to self-publish and so they lost out. It is sad that that is how things were done back then, but a deal was made and they took the deal knowing what that meant.

Darryl Ayo, unfortunately your argument just falls apart when you have to resort to insults. It is compounded by you accusing Red Comet of saying things that are neither written nor implied in his post.

Red Comet, it is a shame you chose to respond to his insults with more of your own.

@Bradshaw: Ah, here comes one now.

Bradshaw: The heirs get the option to reclaim the rights because the original copyright term for Superman is up. When the contract was signed, copyright only lasted 56 years — meaning that, as of 1994, DC had Superman for the term that Siegel and Shuster agreed to.

Why should DC get to keep the rights past the duration that was originally agreed upon?

I agree with Red Comet on the Public Domain issue.

We shouldn’t even be having this discussion; Superman should have gone into the Public Domain a long time ago. It’s not like it means DC would lose the character entirely. They’d still have their trademarks and could be branded as the official Superman stories.

Disney: Ruining things for everybody.

@dl316bh: And of course it’s worth pointing out Disney’s abject hypocrisy in doing everything in its power to destroy the public domain, AFTER building an empire on the Brothers Grimm.

And starting work on The Jungle Book the SAME YEAR its copyright expired.

Thad, I am not saying this to be jerk/ass but for me it comes down to DC has done ALL the work making Superman what it is. The heirs can say “Hey you screwed over my daddy, so give me some money.” and maybe (though not likely) deserve a piece of the pie, but that is the most should get, A piece. DC spent their money publishing the comics, they contracted the talent, they marketed the brand and in doing so have earned the right to control the character.

If DC had dropped the publication of superman at any time over the last 80 years i would agree that the heirs have some right to grab for the character copyrights, but that hasn’t and will not happen anytime soon. Nobody will every pay for a Superman that only has elements from S&S stories, so handing over copyrights will only destroy an american treasure, it will not make anyone happy in the long run.

here is how it should play out in an ideal world.

1. Superman becomes public domain.
2. Warner Bros compensates the Siegel/Shuster familes for millions upon millions.
3. DC continues to publish Superman comics

whether they signed a contract or not, there is no reason that these guys shouldn’t have died billionaires. they created the most popular character of all time.

@Bradshaw: Well, er, all they’re asking for is a piece. Did you RTFA? DC keeps the trademarks, the rights to Luthor, Kryptonite, and every single thing that happened after Siegel and Shuster left. All they’re asking for is the stuff that Siegel and Shuster personally worked on — which, yes, does include a share in Superman himself, Krypton, Lois, and the rest of those elements.

And you didn’t answer my question.

It seems to me that you don’t understand why termination of copyright transfer exists.

Again, it’s because under the original terms of the agreement, Superman would have entered into the public domain in ’94. Congress changed the law in 1976 and, realizing that this effectively changed the terms of every single copyright sale in the past 50 years, allowed the original owners (or, more likely, their statutory heirs) to reclaim copyrights at the end of the original 56-year copyright term.

I ask again: why should DC get to keep the rights to Superman past the originally-agreed-upon 56-year term?

At any rate, this foolishness about how the Siegel heirs getting rights to Superman back “will destroy an American treasure” also indicates that you’re not aware they were already awarded the rights THIRTEEN YEARS AGO and it hasn’t actually changed much of anything. Again, did you RTFA?

OK one last time, DC should still keep the rights after the 56 years, because they spent those 56 years putting up ALL the money, ALL the time, ALL the effort into creating and maintaining the Superman Brand. Without DC nobody would give a crap about Superman, he would be a distant memory. Superman may have made billions but Only because DC spent Millions of there own money making Superman what he is today, making Superman worth the millions they are fighting over.

As for the Public Domain argument, we are talking about an active product, not some character from the 40′s most people barely remember, if someone wants to use Flash Gordon go right ahead nobody cares, but there has been a DC comics Superman book every month for over 70 years, that is what gives them the right to keep ownership. i can’t just start using the Coca-cola secret recipe just because it has been around a “long enough time”, because it is still active in the market place. and if the law doesn’t get that then DC should be fighting against that law.

Brian from Canada

March 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Thad, you have it all wrong.

Prior to 1976, all copyright was held by the initial filer for 28 years with the option for an additional 28 years. Superman, for example, would have been copyrighted by National Periodicals — not Siegel and Shuster — in 1938, bringing the copyright to 1966 and then extension to 1994.

In 1976, the law was changed in four significant ways that affect this case. First and foremost, works were no longer protected from date of publishing but for the life of its author plus fifty years — UNLESS it was a work for hire, then it becomes 75 years from publishing date. Secondly, works were now constituted to include all derivatives that followed. Third, the law included works of art as intellectual property since the arts (i.e., film, television, comic books) were specifically included in the law. And fourth, it included set laws over copyright transference and ownership.

The second is the most important, since the copyright for Action Comics #1 could now be defined as the copyright for all subsequent appearances of Superman even though the initial creators had nothing to do with it.

But where it really becomes a problem is the 1998 extension act that followed. The 1998 act was pushed by the House Of Mouse to add 20 more years to the copyright due to the wars (which, ironically, the USA did not fully participate in). But one of its key proponents, Sonny Bono, pushed to have a clause put in that allowed the INITIAL authors to file for copyright revision within a certain time frame and AUTOMATICALLY get it back.

It’s clear where his sympathies lay: Sonny Bono was a musician, and like many musicians of the 50s and 60s, they had their copyrights gobbled up by companies who understood the value far more than the acts desperate to get in on this new art form called “rock and roll.” NO ONE understood its application to comic books until it was realized that Superman was now up for re-examination.

IF you go by the initial filing, pre-1976, the law says the copyright expires in 1994. If you go by the 1976 act, it goes to 2013. If you go by the 1998 extension, however, the copyrights could go back to the families at any time and they could then shop Superman out to whoever wanted it next. The possibility that Marvel Comics could publish Superman — minus Lex Luthor and The Daily Planet — was actually very real, which is why WB wanted to insure a deal would work out.

(They would also want a fair deal for the families, given the almost boycott of the 1978 movie had they not changed their minds and put in an acknowledgement of Siegel and Shuster’s creation of the character in the film credits.)

The 1999 meetings, according to WB, set up a generous deal that would see the families compensated but rights remain with WB in perpetuity for Superman and the rest of his created universe. WB now claims that — before the deal was put into writing and signed — Toberoff appeared on the scene and convinced them to file for copyright revision.

SINCE that time, a judge has ruled in favour of the Siegel family. THE SIEGELS NOW OWN 50% OF SUPERMAN AND CAN TAKE IT WHEREVER THEY WISH. As owners, they have the right to tell DC which books get reprinted or not, and where DC can use it — WB has only the right to refuse IF it represents their company in a bad light because it’s a trademark of their company. WB can continue to publish Superman as they want with an agreement, and since then they’ve hit a major impasse.

WHY? Because WB also noticed from the discovery that Toberoff gets a portion of that ownership. That means the lawyer is working for his own best interest as well as the family’s, and they feel that Toberoff didn’t point out the initial value of the contract before sticking his own greed in there. Toberoff, you need to know, has MADE DEALS for Superman’s use independently of the family as a copyright holder.

So now WB wants the Toberoff deal quashed in favour of the original, 1999 agreement, on the grounds that the family was tricked by someone who wanted a piece for himself. It’s a conflict of interest on Toberoff’s part, and the WB lawyers clearly have a feeling they can succeed: if the judges don’t accept the conflict case, a trial can so that they can reveal the duplicity.

And they have to do it NOW, while Toberoff is trying to get the Shusters to follow his lead too. (Toberoff is also encouraging the Kirbys, IIRC.)

Personally, I don’t think anyone should be crying for the families as that BOTH deals compensate them for their fathers’ works financially, maintain the creation credit, and ensure a decent royalty for the future. The real question is whether the payout is too much or going to the wrong people.

Brian from Canada

March 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Re: Why should DC be allowed to keep Superman past 56 years?

The 1976 extension adds continued interpretation to ensure that remakes and recordings by other artists of the same material are counted in the ownership of control — as well as any derivatives thereof. Under THAT law, you can’t just make a book about Scarlett O’Hara or Phillip Marlowe without the owner’s permission. It’s the owner’s job to ensure that the copyright is maintained.

So long as someone is maintaining the integrity of the initial image, they are perpetuating the ideal and maintaining the property. Tarzan, John Carter, Flash Gordon, et al. may be out of print for times, but the families are sure to keep the vision integral. In the case of Superman, the people keeping the image of Superman is DC, a division of WB since 1971. And NO ONE is arguing DC is doing a horrible job of maintaining the core principles of Superman — if anything, they’ve made it what it is far more than the initial property holders.

But where the law errs is that it assumes copyright is held by one person, and defines work for hire to know who keeps the ownership. Nowhere does it consider the possibility of transference of an ACTIVE property.

So: what happens if they lose it? Theoretically, the families can take Superman to any other publisher… and if you follow that thinking carefully, a DC universe without Superman would not be the same, nor would an IDW Superman or Marvel Superman. Keeping it in the DC publication maintains the identity far stronger.

Or, in another situation, what happens if WB’s executive decides to refuse the high royalty demanded by one of the owners. What then? Do they kill Superman off and not use him again?

Or what happens if they decide to get even and pull all Superman reprints from trade paperback except the same non-sellers? What happens to the royalties then? Will we get more lawsuits over it?

WB has as much at stake over Superman as the families do — if not more so. I would argue that their continued interest in the character demonstrated over 50 years of good faith use (because the owners weren’t complaining) indicates they should keep it.

@Bradshaw: So it doesn’t matter what the actual contractual agreement is, copyright should be assigned to whoever is currently publishing a work? Should Disney, then, get the rights to the original Brothers Grimm publications of Snow White and Cinderella because they’re the ones with the most famous movie adaptations? Hey, maybe they should own Hamlet, too, considering The Lion King is just Hamlet with animals.

Or maybe, since there’s “still an active marketplace”, Disney should never have been allowed to make those movies in the first place, and should have been sued into oblivion by some conglomerate that bought up the eighteenth-century publisher of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for copyright infringement?

On to your other refrain — “Without Warner nobody would give a crap about Superman.”

Okay.

Well, without Siegel and Shuster, nobody would give a crap about Superman either, because he would not exist.

Additionally, there’s the question of precisely who you believe is currently working at DC who is personally responsible for the success of Superman over the past 70 years. Last I checked Harry Donenfeld, Mort Weisinger, Julie Schwartz, and Curt Swan were collecting the same paycheck that Siegel and Shuster were.

And finally — the formula for Coca-Cola has absolutely nothing to do with copyright law. Again, you don’t actually seem to have a working idea of what copyright is or why it exists. As David in SLC noted above, here is the relevant clause from the United States Constitution:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

Copyright exists so that authors can profit from their writings. Copyright expires because it is in the public interest for ideas to be available for use to all.

So I put it to you this way: do you really believe copyright should never expire?

Do you believe that some publisher somewhere should be collecting royalties every time someone performs a Bach symphony?

Do you believe DC should not be allowed to use characters like Frankenstein or Morgan le Fay, because those characters should still be under copyright to some publishing company somewhere? And what about DC-published books like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Fables? Should those not be allowed to exist either?

@Brian: First of all: No, YOU’RE wrong.

The Copyright Act of ’76 introduced termination of transfer. The ’98 Act extended it, but it was in the ’76 Act. This is not something that Sonny Bono pulled out of thin air.

Two: The notion that copyright expirations are intended only for things that are not in active use is laughable. Again, the works of Shakespeare have been in constant production for hundreds of years.

Three: Where you say “As owners, they have the right to tell DC which books get reprinted or not”, no, they cannot; DC still owns a 50% stake even in the specific books that Siegel himself wrote. DC can reprint whatever the hell they want and the Siegels have no veto power; DC is only obligated to pay royalties. Now, once the Shuster heirs get their stake back, then that’s going to change, at least on Action #1. But that’s not the case right now.

Four: When you say “because the owners weren’t complaining”, who are you referring to? Stockholders, executives?

And finally: the notion that anybody besides DC is going to be publishing Superman is silly alarmist nonsense. To the best of my knowledge the Siegel heirs haven’t made any threats to shop the rights elsewhere; DC still owns all the trademarks and the heirs would take a bath if they tried to take him to another publisher, sans name, shield, and most of his powers and supporting cast.

@Bradshaw

You’re nothing but a WB shill.

Your use of Shakespeare in this discussion is what is laughable, the last time a Shakespeare play was written was by Shakespeare before he died, the last time a Superman comic was published was last Wednesday and there will be another this Wednesday. That is called AN ACTIVE PUBLICATION as in you can get NEW stories all the time. If i put on Shakespeare in the park nobody will sue me it would never cross the minds of anybody left over from his family, if i were to publish a Superman comic book WB would sue me for everything i have. Because it is an ACTIVE PUBLICATION! They own Superman, and if they do nothing and let a case like this go it looks badly for them, as the trademark OWNERS.

I hate this ****. I really do. DC/WB has grown this property over the last SEVENTY-FOUR YEARS. The last time either one of them had ANYTHING to do with the characters was 45 years ago. And that wasn’t DC’s decision. That was their’s because they decided to give up their jobs, AGAIN (meaning DC had hired them back after they had sued them once), instead of actually WORKING on the property. The children/estates have never had anything creatively to do with the property AT ALL. I understand law, and I understand IP law, but I don’t see how anyone in their right mind can sit there and argue that people that NEVER had anything to do with an IP, and who reneged on a deal they made worth TENS of MILLIONS of dollars (and I’m sure that’s just the short term, it involved royalties), should have more claim to an IP than a group that has spent 3/4 of a century and millions and millions, if not billions, of dollars growing it into what it is. This is BLATENT abuse of the (very flawed) american copyright laws and nothing else. The only way I would be happy about this is if the families end up with not-a-damn thing. Every member of both families could have been very rich for, basically, ever. But that wasn’t enough for these greedy bastards. Greed of this magnitude literally makes me sick.

Moosey, i don’t get paid by WB, i think they have their heads up there asses, their cross-media use of their comic book characters makes me want to punch WB execs in the face (ie the Green Lantern film) but they own the characters and can do what they want with them no matter if i agree 100% or not. The issue i’m talking about is who should have creative control and why.

Oy, this headache again. I want this stupid scuffle to end, and there’s only one way for both parties to do so: settle with the establishment of a CO-OWNERSHIP deal. Both sides get an equal amount of the profits made off the character, it’s as simple as that! I personally vow to send a letter to that court begging the two parties to finally end this madness.

T Anthony Auld

March 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Hey Guys! No matter what the outcome is, at least we still have CAPTAIN MARVEL!

Right?

…. guys?

Googam son of Goom

March 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm

The laws won’t be changed just to make your head stop hurting Acer. there’s too much money in it.

Why do I keep hearing the word Public Domain? lol.Seriously? I mean how are you going to toss the word around when other giant companies are holding on to characters that were created just as far back as Superman.Like Mickey Mouse and there are dozens of more examples I could put down but don’t really have the time.Are you saying that those other iconic characters should also be in the Public Domain too? I mean really, why stop at Superman? Let’s toss Batman in the Public Domain while you’re at it.

At the end of the day this is Warner Bros showing their true color.The color of greed to hold on to Superman which rightfully belongs to the heirs of his creators.Your time is up Dc comics.I see you sitting back letting big brother Warner Bros do all the work but they are running on fumes.There is no way a judge is going to force take away the Superman copyrights that the Siegel Estate deserve nor stop the 2013 deadline.Plus I doubt the judge will force the Shuster family to sign a contract with Dc comics thus giving up their piece of the pie.

@Googam
Then I’d rather see both parties go broke instead. I would like to see Warner Brothers for once fail, and I want to see the families just move on and find another profession to worry about. Because this isn’t a case in a court of law–it’s now a sideshow attraction that’s wearing out its welcome.

And I’m still sending that letter.

Why do I keep hearing the word Public Domain? lol.Seriously? I mean how are you going to toss the word around when other giant companies are holding on to characters that were created just as far back as Superman.Like Mickey Mouse and there are dozens of more examples I could put down but don’t really have the time.Are you saying that those other iconic characters should also be in the Public Domain too? I mean really, why stop at Superman? Let’s toss Batman in the Public Domain while you’re at it.

Your tone of ridicule makes no sense. I’m sure most of the people like me who say Superman should be public domain are also in agreement that characters like Batman and Mickey Mouse who were created around that time or earlier should also be in the public domain. If it was up to me most of Stan and Jack’s creations would enter public domain next year too.

@Red Comet
Hypothetically, if all those creations were to enter the Public Domain the next year, IF it actually happened–what happens to the companies, now that they have no ‘signature characters’? What happens to all the merchandise based on those creations that’s still out there? What happens to the creative and artistic integrity of some of today’s writers and artists now that characters they’ve probably wanted to work on for some time are now out of their grasp?

@ T Anthony Auld

“Hey Guys! No matter what the outcome is, at least we still have CAPTAIN MARVEL!

Right?

…. guys?”

Great line!

Well, at least with the (original, REAL) Captain Marvel comics, they’re public domain.

Go ahead and download them all you want (as long as they’re NOT the restored versions!)…. DC can’t go after you for something they no longer own!

At least this way, you won’t have to pay for and suffer through the bastardization of the character by DC’s overworked, out-of-good ideas wunderkind, Geoffrey Johns!

Sure, DC can still restore and reprint them but Fawcett never filed to renew the copyrights to the actual comics while they had the chance so they’re PD just like the Fleischer/Famous Studios Superman cartoons are in spite of WB owning the masters/negatives to most of those cartoons.

If I recall correctly (and correct me if I’m wrong), even if the Siegel and Shuster heirs were to fully regain the Superman copyright, this actually only applies to the American copyright. DC/WB will still fully own all international rights to the Superman (because international copyright laws work differently). Straight off, this places some limitations on whatever Superman projects the heirs (and their lawyer) may have planned. In addition, theoretically, DC can publish specific Superman comics for say Brazil, Japan and Australia and are fully entitled to do so. This may explain the (now pretty-much irrelevant) ‘Superman renounces his American ciitizenship’ story not too long ago.

Hypothetically, if all those creations were to enter the Public Domain the next year, IF it actually happened–what happens to the companies, now that they have no ‘signature characters’? What happens to all the merchandise based on those creations that’s still out there? What happens to the creative and artistic integrity of some of today’s writers and artists now that characters they’ve probably wanted to work on for some time are now out of their grasp?

You’re coming at this from the angle of copyright law suddenly changing today. If it had always been this way then these companies would have been developing new properties in the decades preceding the loss of their exclusivity to the big guns.

But even if it did change overnight the companies can still publish their “signature characters.” They’ll just have to actually make an effort at being excellent and mainstream for once to be better than all the people out there that can and will use them for free. They pretty much deserve the pain they’re going to have to go through for being lazy about innovation for the past few decades.

@Darryl Ayo
Siegel and Shuster were NOT cheated…they WILLINGLY signed away their rights (more than once) and were VERY well compensated with a ten-year contract that paid them 20x the national average, which they promptly squandered!

If the comic had failed after a year, should S+S have given back their salaries and forfeited their contracts? That’s essentially what you seem to expect from DC

And ironically, the very check that Siegel and Shuster received for signing their rights away just went up for auction today.

The fact that anyone could ridicule the Public Domain is sad. For just one example, the Vertigo series Fables would not exist without it. The House of Mouse essentially gutted the Public Domain and the world is a bit poorer for it.

@Acer: Nothing would happen to them. They’d still have their trademarks and would be able to brand themselves as the official ongoing adventures of those characters. Less would happen than people think; the companies just don’t really want the competition.

@dl316bh
Now I am REALLY glad I grew out of Disney quickly–those scum buckets have got to start being more original for once (and not cheat using Pixar).

And what’s wrong with a little friendly competition? Thanks to the way our economy is structured, everyone HAS TO compete (and it sickens me in a way–the only competitions should be in sports).

@Acer: Nothing is wrong with a little competition. I encourage it. It gives me choice as a consumer; never a bad thing. There should be more competition.

As for Disney, I’ve always found it kind of ironic that they screwed it over when most of their well known films were public domain fairy tales cleaned up for an all ages audience. Had the public domain grew, more stuff for them to use. But nope, let’s gut it; all to protect a mascot they barely used at the time or since. Seriously, Epic Mickey aside, when’s the last time Disney used Mickey in any significant capacity?

@dl316bh
Maybe it’s time somebody (or somebodies) come up with an organized effort to convince Disney to start using their original characters more OUTSIDE their merchandise. We don’t need another Disneyized fairy tale, thank you very much. Walt must be turning in his grave over these….

I hope everything will turn out ok

it would be great if hte famil won
they could get an apology for the terrible treatement there realitves recieved
and the money they never saw in life

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