Robot 6

Shuster heirs seek a rehearing of Superman copyright appeal

Action Comics #1

Action Comics #1

As expected, the attorney for the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster has asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing of last month’s ruling that reaffirmed the artist’s estate can’t reclaim his copyright stake in the Man of Steel.

The Ninth Circuit upheld in a 2-1 opinion an October 2012 ruling by a lower court that the Shuster family relinquished all claims to the character in a 1992 agreement with DC Comics in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included paying Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and providing his sister Jean Peavy and brother Frank Shuster with a $25,000 annual pension. U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright had found the agreement invalidated a copyright-termination notice filed in 2003 by Shuster’s nephew Mark Peary.

But in a petition filed Tuesday, and first reported by Deadline, attorney Marc Toberoff insists the Nov. 21 opinion warrants a rehearing by either the three-judge panel or the Ninth Circuit’s full bench “because it contravenes Congress’ clear objectives, and this Court’s carefully-circumscribed decisions.”

His argument hinges in large part on the dissent by Judge Sidney Runyan Thomas, who noted that because Shuster’s estate hadn’t entered probate at the time of the 1992 agreement, neither the artist’s sister nor brother had the authority to “dispose of Joe’s copyright interests.”

The October 2012 decision was the first of twin, seemingly fatal, blows in the battle by the creators’ families for the Superman rights: Less than three months later, the Ninth Circuit overturned a 2008 decision that granted the Seigel heirs his 50-percent share of the copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, effectively giving DC full ownership of the character. That was followed in April by Wright’s ruling that Superboy also belongs to the publisher, an issue left unresolved by the appeals court’s decision.

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Comments

22 Comments

Ugh. Hang it up ppl. You lost.Move on.

Let it go. You’re just throwing away money now.

Greed. Pure and simple.

“His argument hinges in large part on the dissent by Judge Sidney Runyan Thomas, who noted that because Shuster’s estate hadn’t entered probate at the time of the 1992 agreement, neither the artist’s sister nor brother had the authority to “dispose of Joe’s copyright interests.”

So it was alright when they won money the first time. If they didn’t have the “authority” does that mean the money they won should be returned?

I say this as a taxpayer: stop waiting the public’s money by refiling your case over and over. No court will ever rule in your favor. Is this justice? Maybe not. But is refiling likely to change things? I don’t think so.

This is so silly. These people did nothing to deserve a share of the current value of Superman. Shuster and Siegel themselves didn’t either. Superman is valuable now specifically because DC bought him, handed him over to a number of other great creators, and paid them to build the value of the brand.

You know what would happen if the heirs somehow gained total control of Superman? He’d be gone from the popular culture within a decade after repeated failed attempts by other media companies to license the character and slap him on their own mediocre products.

(Same for Kirby’s heirs and Stan Lee Media, too)

Toberoff is the ambulance chaser of the comic book world.

Granted, it seems like this issue is just about the money. But Did Joe Shuster never think for a second that he wanted his family taken care of? Why does any man do what he does except to support his family? Regardless of whether the Shusters are just after some cash, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have it. It’s not like they have plans for the character. They just want their cut of the success of the character their father worked decades to achieve, the benefits of which he was ultimately screwed out of anyway. Superman is a multi-BILLION-dollar franchise. Half a million is all they get for their father’s work? DC screwed the creators of their greatest asset, and need to just pony up the dough and let the Shusters have what’s rightfully theirs.

They deserve the right to their property. It’s the American way.

Ya, isn’t it Marc Toberoff fault? I mean, wasn’t he the one who talked them into suing over and over again and didn’t he ( I could be wrong I thought I read) doesn’t he have a bigger stake in it. Like he some how got himself set up to have a percentage of the ownership if the Shusters won?

knew that Siegels and shushters estates would not give up the fight reclaiming that under copyright law legaly is their right now. in fact see the thing going to the u.s supreme court. after all for those who say dc bought superman. the truth is they first rejected it when Siegel and shuster pitched him then while they were in the army published him and only gave them a 150 bucks to continue to do so.

demoncat, shuster and siegel said OK, deal.

Too bad they were too dumb to realize they had a gold mine nor could they project how comics and radio and TV and FIlm would generate soo much money.

either way they got a million dollars I believe about 40 years ago. NOT TOO SHABBY

Brian from Canada

December 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm

@demoncat4:

Read SUPER BOYS. It’s a fictionalized account of Siegel and Shuster based on historical facts, and one of the things you learn is that the boys were earning good money with DC right up until they sued for ownership of the characters again after the war.

In the 70s, Siegel went back to DC at his wife’s insistence. Shuster, meanwhile, was selling off possessions to make the rent because he could no longer see. When the comic creators began to push DC to give them a royalty that decade, Siegel ended up making a lot more than Shuster — and the Siegels ran Shuster’s accounts for him too. (The Siegels also renegotiated in the 90s too.)

So if the Peavys, who loved Joe, weren’t able to ask for better compensation later on, it was because the rights were still under the control of the Siegels… and a judge had already ruled their agreements in principle were binding even they weren’t yet in writing.

Toberoff is doing everything he can to earn the royalties back to the families, but it’s not like they didn’t keep pushing for better funds the whole way through and are destitute because of it.

It’s time for them to stop all the lawsuits.

DC owns the character.

But – it would be great if DC would make an annual payment to the estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster each year of a significant amount. They should also do that for the estates of Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Charles Moulton, Jack Kirby, and a few others.

I’m sure the estates of those people accept donations. Go for it.

And the company I work for should pay me more for my work but they don’t. Oh well.

As one who has probated a will myself .. the point made by the dissenting judge is valid.

Which is, you cannot sell rights you do not legally have in your possession.

In my case, we had to first probate the will, and then the judge had to appoint an executor of the will. And then, the process of determining who owned what and how much had to be finalized by a judge.

Apparently, none of that was done when two of the heirs made the deal with DC. Therefore whatever deal they made was invalid .. and the Siegel heirs have the right to recoup their share of the SUPERMAN copyright.

In fact, just finding out about this detail tells me that there’s funny business in the court that ruled based on the phony deal. But then, big corporate money can buy you a decision is this world. Which apparently, is a world that is Forever Evil when it comes to creator rights ..

It doesn’t matter what happens next because at the end of the day Dc comics will continue to pay the Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel heirs their money because it’s part of the deal that they made to hold on to the rights to Superman.

For fucks sake people! Forget it already! This is just greed pure and simple. It was Siegel and Shuster who created superman and it was also them who decided to sell the character to a publishing company for few bucks! You didn’t even do anything!
Its ridiculous that sister and brother of the creator are compensated for anything by the company. Might they have become rich too if their brother hadn’t sold the rights and had been able to hold on to them? Maybe but he didn’t so that’s that! It may not be justice but it’s about business, in business world things aren’t always fare. Just accept it and move on with your lives.
But unfortunately I have a feeling that there is still going to be news about some Siegel and Shuster heirs challenging DC 50 years from now.

I beleave that within the next 5 or 6 years, supes is going into public doman.For both DC and the estate of the creators, that is a HUGE factor in this matter. Rich G, you beat me to it, very well said.

Brian from Canada

December 15, 2013 at 6:54 am

Ken: the Seigel heirs were identified in the will and deal was valid.

The issue is Shuster’s. Jerry’s story earned sympathy, but Joe’s was the most saddening because he was broke, unable to work because he was going blind, selling his furniture to make rest, and his last notable illustrative contribution in the 50s and 60s was towards a porn mag that got shut down during the mid-50s. Get Joe’s story out there, and you motivate the company to pay; and with Jerry having worked more (at his wife’s insistence), Jerry got a lot more from DC than Joe ever did.

The Peavys, though, were next of kin and had to pay his debts upon his death. The 1992 deal was one of fairness to both families and negotiated with the Siegel’s knowledge. That the Siegels wanted more after is truth as well, and the judge is holding up those two deals as valid because they were both made in good faith.

Toberoff is the one saying good faith is not enough, it has to be written and within the laws as they are now, and wants DC to pay more — without saying publicly that he will have the controlling aspect of licensing if the families win.

Look, a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing!
These people are gonna mess around and lose what they got from the courts
the first time around.

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