Robot 6

Shuster estate’s case may be over, but Superman fight continues

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1

Although an appeals court seems to have brought to an end the Joe Shuster estate’s bid to reclaim the artist’s stake in Superman, The Hollywood Reporter reminds us that the fight by Jerry Siegel’s heirs is far from over.

According to the website, attorney Marc Toberoff — he represents both families — is scheduled to file a brief next month on a pending appeal of a March 2013 ruling that affirmed the writer’s family relinquished any claims to the Man of Steel by accepting a 2001 offer from DC Comics that permits 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.

Toberoff maintains the Siegels never accepted the DC offer (the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found otherwise), but even if there was a contract, then the publisher failed to perform. That explains the addition last year of the line “By Special Arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family” to the credits of any DC title featuring Superman, a stipulation of the 2001 agreement.

However, Wright noted that breach-of-contract claims are a matter for state court, and don’t affect the enforceability of the 2001 agreement. So, a separate lawsuit remains an option for the Siegels, even if — or perhaps when — they exhaust their copyright case.

As The Hollywood Reporter points out, while the Siegel heirs still face “incredibly long odds,” their fight isn’t over yet.

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Comments

17 Comments

For God sakes just go away already.

Just beating a dead horse

seriously dc is what made this character what it is over the years. this needs to end because its pointless. And if for some reason the seigal family gets the rights, it is probably going to destroy this character with crappy licensing deals that will ruin the history of supes

at what point do the courts say enough already and start charging these lawyers for continuing the clog up the court system….. the only ones that are going to make money are the lawyers

More power to the family. Its sick how the actual creative people in this country have no rights to characters they have created. Creators should automatically get a fixed percentage of ownership for any character they create. I am not talking 50%…I am talking about 5% or 10% stake of ownership for the first 10 years of creation. If the creator wants to sell their share after that, so be it.
The trouble with the current system is you have one sided agreements that creators don’t have any real power to negotiate with. Its either accept a few thousand bucks a month or starve.

@jheron The creators of Superman are dead so there is no way for them to collect money. The family didn’t create anything so what do they need to be paid for?

Really sad that the Siegels & Shusters can’t get their property back. The most annoying part is that the law was changed to balance the injustice but it’s still meaningless as courts find ways to invalidate the spirit of the law.

the creators sold the character.

and then in the 70′s, DC paid them another million.

is the family of the designers of the Corvette sueing GM?

the creators did not sell dc superman .dc first rejected supes. then while jerry and joe was at war published superman and later offered them peanuts for the rights. so one should not blame the estates for just fighting for what by right is theirs in the first place creativily. hope they take the battle all the way to scotus and force warners to just work out a deal and be done .

Is this ever going to END??

The guy at fault here is most likely Toberoff.

He’s laughing his way to the bank on this one and I wonder if he’s ever informed his clients of just how long of a shot they really are facing.

Brian from Canada

January 22, 2014 at 5:14 pm

demoncat14, you have it wrong.

DC rejected a Superman comic strip, not a comic book. Donnenfeld had them change the strips to a book format, and bought the rights. In 1940, Batman was started specifically to have another hero should the boys reject the increased royalty payment, cementing the sale of rights, but the boys kept up with the deal because the money was good.

Jerry was upset Superboy had been launched without their permission during the war. He and Joe sued DC in the late 40s and lost.

Jerry survived going back to DC at his wife’s insistence. Joe was broken, and going blind. It was Joe, selling his possessions to pay the rent, that really swayed people’s opinions that DC had done the creators wrong. A new royalty structure was made in the mid-70s, which included the credit of creation — but Siegel got a lot more than Shuster, and until the Peavys got involved, it was the Siegels who controlled the Shuster royalty distribution.

It’s not like the families suffered from one bad sale. And the fact that DC was willing to deal AHEAD of the copyright window says they knew negotiations would ensure steady flow of Superman. Toberoff got involved and changed up the deal; without him, this would never have happened.

I love it-
If someone said I can possibly make you filthy rich, you would all jump at the chance.
I feel all comic creators should get a fair amount of money every time the character they created is used.
And their families should inherit the future royalties.
Why would anyone here not agree to this?
“No it’s okay I’ll live in my trailer, I don’t want any money from something my family created”
Companies make millions and billions of dollars, they can give up a fair share.

I’m glad to see some reasonable folks posting about this amongst the fanboy rage from adolescents who’s greatest creations are the turds they drop in a toilet. If you don’t want to read about it, don’t click the links. These were good, honest guys – sometimes that’s a negative, if they had been complete liars and scam artists like Bob Kane this wouldn’t have been an issue to begin with. Their heirs are fully entitled to take this as far as the courts will allow them to – creators rights are a very important issue, one that needs to be brought to the forefront until changes are made.

Besides that, imagine if your dad invented a product and the company he worked for screwed him out of compensation and he died penniless. It’s so easy to say “that’s life get over it” but you know as well as I do, if you couldn’t even go to Walmart or the grocery store without seeing that creation being exploited for maximum profit, generating billions, you would not feel the same way.

I’m hoping the Supreme Court hears the Schuster case (it’s not over until the Supreme Court denies them, btw) and that the Siegels are successful. Their only option is to challenge ownership, because DC didn’t compensate them adequately and even in the cases they offered to didn’t follow through. They would have been satisfied if DC had thrown them a little more along the way, but DC took advantage of people in rough situations and the only ones to blame are themselves. They could easily make this go away right now by throwing a few million bucks a year at the families, which is like 1% of what they bring in, or spend on a single movie. But they won’t, because of the overall copyright issue of expiration, and it would weaken their position in claiming that a character that should already be in public domain if not for lobbying efforts of their very own industry to manipulate law I their favor.

All the fan boy ragers about this would feel much differently if they couldn’t walk out of the house without the exploitation of your family quite literally flying in your face you entire life.

If Jerry and Joe were alive, this be really different. But, the heirs are getting a lot of money, maybe not as much under a different contract, but they didn’t make Superman. DC did, Shazam would have been a much better overpowered hero than Supes, but this is where we are now.

It’s idiotic that people want to shame the heirs for going after compensation. “They didn’t create anything,” the whiny fanboys cry. Did you create the wealth or acquire the family property your parents will pass or have passed to you in their wills? Doubtful. In this country, we have a right to leave a legacy to our heirs. Why should this be any different for those who’ve created intellectual property? If they had been properly compensated in their lifetimes, they could simply pass the wealth, but they weren’t. Stop whining, and start thinking about these people as human beings, not machines who turn out the pabulum you shovel into your gaping maws.

If DC stiffed on the $3 mil in 2001, then the heirs are owed that and interest. If DC DIDN’T stiff on the $3 mil, the heirs should quit while they’re ahead.

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