Warner Bros. wins copyright battle against Superman co-creator Joe Shuster’s heirs

In the long, trying Superman copyright fiasco yesterday has now put closure on at least half of the copyrights to the Man of Steel. According to the Hollywood Reporter, U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright ruled “that the 1992 Agreement, which represented the Shuster heirs’ opportunity to renegotiate the prior grants of Joe Shuster’s copyrights, superseded and replaced all prior grants of the Superman copyrights. The 1992 Agreement thus represents the parties’ operative agreement and, as a post-1978 grant, it is not subject to termination.”

Don’t understand what this means? Well in layman’s terms, there is a law that states that any agreements or copyright grants made prior to 1978 is subject to termination. This is the argument that lawyer Marc Toberoff and the Shusters were issuing. The problem is that Jean Peavy, Shuster’s sister, made a deal with DC Comics in 1992 to cover Joe Shuster’s debts and in addition DC Comics had to pay her $25,000 every year for the rest of her life. This deal in 1992 superseded the deal made prior to 1978 and consequentially killing any chance of the Shusters regaining any of the rights back to Superman.

With this victory for Warner Bros and DC, it’s still only half a victory. As ScreenRant stated, that “this ruling has no bearing whatsoever on the federal court’s previous ruling that Jerry Siegel’s heirs could reclaim 50% of Superman’s rights – including the origin story, the iconic costume, Clark Kent, and everything else from Action Comics #1 (which would leave Warner Bros. things like Lex Luthor, the power of flight, and Kryptonite).” So what does that mean for Warner Bros when it comes to Superman by next year when the rights revert back to Siegel’s heirs? It means that Warner Bros is still able to produce works on Superman they just cannot create new works based on the properties of the characters that are owned by Jerry Siegel’s heirs.

So everything ScreenRant listed above, kiss that goodbye in any future works by DC or WB. To make matters worse for WB/DC, rumors have gone around that the rights would be sold to Marvel, as a big FU to DC. Obviously, take that with a grain of salt but I think you can agree with me that what’s left isn’t going to be Superman, but a completely different character. Warner Bros is appealing the decision from 2008, and the hearing on the matter will be held on November 5th, 2012.

Source: Hollywood Reporter and ScreenRant

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