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DC Comics seeks definitive end to decade-long Superman legal battle

From Action Comics #1

Seeking to end nearly a decade of litigation, DC Comics has asked for summary judgment in lawsuits brought by the heirs of Jerry Siegel regarding the copyrights to Superman and Superboy.

In a motion filed Thursday in federal court, and first reported by Law360, the publisher’s attorneys assert the Jan. 10 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that effectively affirmed DC’s ownership of the Man of Steel bars Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson from moving forward with any claims.

That decision overturned a 2008 ruling that permitted Siegel’s family to recapture his portion of the copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1 under a provision of the 1976 Copyright Act, which seemingly cleared a path for the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster to do the same this year. That would have given the family of ownership of many of the Man of Steel’s defining elements, including his origin, his secret identity, Lois Lane and certain aspects of his costume and powers (super-strength and super-speed), while leaving DC with such later additions as Lex Luthor, kryptonite and Jimmy Olsen — not to mention the all-important trademarks.

However, that possibility was relatively short-lived: In October 2012, a federal judge found the Shuster estate’s 2003 copyright-termination notice was invalidated by a 20-year-old agreement with DC in which the late artist’s sister Jean Peavy relinquished all claims to Superman in exchange “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” including payment of Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and a $25,000 annual pension for Peavy.

The Jan. 10 ruling against the Siegel heirs also came down to an earlier agreement, as the Ninth Circuit found that Larson had accepted a 2001 offer from DC that would have permitted the publisher to retain all rights to Superman (as well as Superboy and The Spectre) in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions. Larson insisted she never formally accepted the offer, freeing her and her late mother Joanne Siegel to pursue copyright termination. But the appeals court sided with DC, which argued the family had agreed to the settlement and only withdrew from the settlement after attorney Marc Toberoff entered the picture, falsely asserting he had a $15 million offer for the rights from a billionaire investor.

“As the Ninth Circuit noted, it is indeed the case that a ‘judgment in DC’s favor on its settlement counterclaim renders moot all of the other questions in this lawsuit,’” DC stated in the motion filed Thursday. “Her four claims in the Superman case all hinge on the validity of her termination notice and her continued ownership of the allegedly recaptured Superman copyrights. Larson traded any rights she had in Superman to DC, as part of the Oct. 19, 2001, agreement.”

DC has asked for a hearing before U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright on March 11, the same day he will consider a motion to dismiss the publisher’s copyright-interference claims against Toberoff.

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13 Comments

even thought it still means dc and warners now own super man for good. its long over due all this legal fighting finaly end

If all the legal disputes regarding Superman are finally settled, maybe they’ll finally put back Superman the way he’s supposed to be: together with Lois Lane and wearing “underwear” outside his pants.

I’m all for him being back with Lois but as for him wearing his costume on the outside please no. It’s was a much needed change even though I loved his original costume it was time to modernize it. It like making football players wear the old leather helmets instead of the new helmets.

Glad that its over now maybe we’ll see Lois with Superman, The release of the 1990′s Superboy TV show on DVD and other things.

What exactly is modern about Superman’s current costume other than it has different details than the classic outfit?

Brian from Canada

February 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm

david —

90s Superboy has 1 season on wide release DVD with another now on WB MOD (order directly from the company in the US only). The final season will go that way too.

I can’t stand all of the new “modernised” DC costumes. Hawkman, Shazam, Flash, Dr Fate, Superman, Batman etc – over-complicated messes that are crushed underneath a myriad of unnecessary lines, pieces of armour etc I’m all for updating costumes, but not overcomplicating them – it’s just a rehash of the 90s shoulder pads debacle. Next everyone will be back to wearing leather jackets over their costumes.

Just end it NOW.

Well for one who do you know where underwear on the outside unless they are in an asylum. Two what person with advanced technology still where’s a coatume made of cheap fabric that their mother made for them. Also the suit you know and love is not the original designed suit anyways. You don’t see people in the army still rubbing around with saucer helmets and musket guns do ya. Supes is a character tat constantly fighting and his suit is always getting tore wouldn’t you want a suit made out of better material. Also look at it this way we are commucating on the Internet so would you like for people to use paper and envelopes to communicate with each other.

I can understand if they were doing the stories during that time period. Like I said I love the costumes and if they still wore them it would not bother me but come on the suit needed updating.

@ The one. Sorry, chief .but the Majority (i.e. the general public) will always think of the classic costume. not that armored montrosity that should be confined within the depths of deviantART where it belongs. Same goes for the Man of Steel costume.

Yep and that’s why he has not had a big movies since superman two. That’s why he does not gravitate towards the new generation if fans because they thought his costume was lame because he wears his underwear on the outside. The problem with Supes was that the character is stagnate. Everyone want Richard donner version except the new generation. Man of steel and the new 52 Supes is a step in the right direction. I will say the writing has not been the best in the new 52 but it not as bad as per new 52 when he was doing his world walk. The way people treat this character is like how a smoldering parent keep their child from becoming a man or woman you have to let him or her grow.

Also the only reason people will remember his classic costume is because the dude has not had a costume change up until now. Only thing that changed was that he had a mullet. Also the blue and red character which I don’t consider that a costume change.

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