Comics Legal Battles!

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JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Postby Diabolical » Fri Mar 28, 2008 10:18 pm

Suck it newsbot.
JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Judge Says Siegels Now Own Half of Superman In a possibly historic ruling, a federal judge Wednesday determined that the heirs of Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel, are now the rightful owners of one-half of the copyright of Superman, and have been since 1999. The New York Times reported today that Judge Stephen Larson of the Central District of California had delivered a whopping 72 page ruling on the matter of who owns the copyright of Superman, establishing that "Action Comics" #1, the first appearance of Superman, was not considered to be a product of work-for-hire, making the copyright for that issue (and, naturally, the character of Superman) eligible for termination by Siegel’s heirs. What that means in simpler terms -- the Siegel's now own half of the Superman copyright.

The ruling was based upon changes made in 1976 to the Copyright Act, extending the total length of copyright protection for a character like Superman from 56 years to 75 years since creation. This change also allowed any copyright transfers to be terminated so that the original copyright owner (or his/her heirs) could gain the benefit of those extra 19 years of protection (with the presumption being that it would be unfair to the original copyright owners, as any deals they made before the change in law were based upon the 56 year duration, not 75).

DC has an array of defenses, but their best one was that "Action Comics" #1 was a work-for-hire, which means that DC would be considered the creator of the copyright. Larson ruled against DC on this point, stating that Siegel and Shuster sold their property (and the copyrights therein) to DC for $130, in a standard copyright transfer. It is this transfer that Siegel’s heirs filed for termination, which would have become effective in 1999, which Larson confirmed Wednesday.

There are a number of details still at play here, of course. The most notable right now is that DC will certainly appeal Larson’s decision. The second is that Larson left it open to a jury to determine both how much money Time Warner (owner of DC Comics) owes the Siegels for the usage of Superman since 1999 (note this is only for US rights of Superman, DC still maintains full international rights), and how many rights the Siegels have to characters created after "Action Comics" #1 (as those later issues were work-for-hire, but how many of these characters were derivatives of Superman?).

Finally, the most notable event for future details is that this opens up an extremely interesting situation in 2013. In 2013, Joe Shuster’s estate is eligible to terminate their half of the Superman copyright. You see, Shuster had no heirs, so his estate was unable to terminate those extra 19 years mentioned before, as the changes in 1976 to the Copyright Act were only available to authors or their heirs. In 1998, however, the Copyright Term Extension Act was passed, giving an additional 20 years to all copyrights established before 1978. Unlike the previous Copyright Act extension, the Act passed in 1998 gives the estate of Authors the right to terminate, as well. Therefore, in 2013, Shuster’s estate (represented by Shuster's nephew Mark Peary) will terminate just like Siegel’s heirs, meaning DC might very well lose the copyright to Superman entirely until 2033, at which point Superman would enter the public domain. Of course, who knows whether Congress will pass another extension before then.
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Re: JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Postby jjreason » Fri Mar 28, 2008 10:26 pm

Wow, maybe we here at Vynsane can scrape a few bucks together and make a bid for the copyright when it comes open! I've got an extra $20....
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Re: JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Postby RoIIo Tomassi » Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:19 pm

If it's public domain, DC can still use the character. But it would be funny to see Marvel start using Superman...as a villain!

I'm interested to see the "derivatives of Superman" play out. Every superhero is a derivative of Superman. he's the base. The template. The yardstick. Concievably, Seigel could own a piece of EVERY superhero, from Batman to SpiderMan to Spawn to Scud the disposable assassin...
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Re: JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Postby vynsane » Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:42 pm

RoIIo Tomassi wrote:If it's public domain, DC can still use the character. But it would be funny to see Marvel start using Superman...as a villain!


look at "the thirteen" and "project: superpowers" for public domain making a comeback.

I'm interested to see the "derivatives of Superman" play out. Every superhero is a derivative of Superman. he's the base. The template. The yardstick. Concievably, Seigel could own a piece of EVERY superhero, from Batman to SpiderMan to Spawn to Scud the disposable assassin...


i don't think it reaches that far - pretty sure the "derivatives" part is in reference to the "superman family" - superboy, supergirl, krypto the super-dog, etc... hence why they couldn't use "superboy" in the current "LoS" cartoon - it was tied up in the court case. for some reason they could still use superman, though...
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Re: JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Postby anarky » Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:39 am

Did they ever decide which half the Siegels own? Top? Bottom? Left? Right? Front or back?

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Re: JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Postby vynsane » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:23 pm

actually, it's ever other square millimeter. in the case of an odd number of square millimeters, on even numbered comics, the extra millimeter belongs to DC, odd to siegels.
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Re: JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

Postby JON » Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:10 pm

This whole conversation is really just the tip of a major IP iceberg, as a ton of media/entertainment stuff is on the edge of public domain. When you think about it, the 1930's and 40's were the point where a lot of the modern "characters" we know and love were created. Soon, anybody will be able to make Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Mickey Mouse, etc. material.

Actually, I'm just kidding. When companies as powerful as the Mouse and TimeWarner have billions at stake in IP, its a safe bet the government will grant them control in perpetuity rather than meet the expectations of everybody else.

Poor Alan Moore will never get to create a league of 20th century douchebaggery. Alas!

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No More Superman for DC?

Postby Diabolical » Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:38 pm

This is an article from /film about the possibility of another Superman flick, but I've bolded the key part.

It’s a red letter day for Superman, pun intended. Not only is there some discussion about his potential appearance in the Green Lantern film, a crucially important law suit has been settled. Variety have reported that Warner Bros. and DC have been granted a favorable ruling in their case with the heirs of Jerry Siegel. This suit was first filed on April 16, 1999 so the decision has been a long time coming, and it is only an interim decision too, with more to come on other matters.

To cut this story down to the bits and pieces that really impact upon /Film business, I’ll quote the key lines from the Variety report after the break.

Here’s the first juicy nugget:

The judge, who conducted a 10-day bench trial, also noted that Warner Bros. chairman Alan Horn had testified that he hopes to make another “Superman” movie but added that the property wasn’t under development at the studio, that no script had been written and that the earliest another “Superman” pic could be released would be in 2012.


And the second:

[Siegel's attorney] Toberoff also asserted in a written statement that the Siegel heirs and the heirs of co-creator Joe Shuster will own the entire Superman copyright in 2013.


Which means, in effect, no more Superman comics from DC or Superman films from Warner Bros. after that date, unless the heirs of Siegel and Shuster strike a new deal. Mind boggingly, this could even see Superman travel over to become part of the Marvel universe. Wow.

So, any new Superman film would have to be in production relatively quickly, though nothing is actually on the cards. Perhaps there’s not even time for a full-on Supes feature, so our only hope of seeing Kal-El astride the multiplexes in new adventure might be a his rumored appearance in Green Lantern - though that, apparently, would be in his alter-ego guise of Clark Kent.

In an interview with MTV, Marc Guggenheim commented on the possibility:

Honestly, it changes on a daily basis. Whatever information I gave you today would be obsolete in a week, and maybe come back again in two weeks. And even if it wasn’t in flux at the script stage, it would still be constantly in flux because you can film it, put it in the original cut, and eventually it could end up on the editing room floor.


If I were Alan Horn I’d get Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and Bryan Singer in my office first thing in the morning and start winding their keys.
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Re: No More Superman for DC?

Postby Rollo Tomassi » Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:38 pm

It's hilarious how Toberoff paints this picture of the evil greedy giant corporation Warner Bros bilking these poor innocent Jewish kids who created Superman out of their rightful shares of the profits.

First of all, WB didn't buy DC until the late 70s, and at the original time of the creation of Superman, National Comics was a small press publisher, the publisher it should be noted, who was taking all the risk in publishing the book. After Superman hit it big, Siegel and Shucter were getting royalties right off the bat, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars! In todays economy they were MULTI MILLIONAIRES. They squandered all their fucking money in the 50s and 60s!!

Then, WB graciously gave them a stipend in their old age until the day they died, without any legal pressure.

Lastly, it has been DC who has been custodian of this character for the past 70+ years, publishing the comics, keeping the figure public in the minds eye in print, and in other media as well so that the NOW the character has reached such iconis status all over the world. And the character's popularity is now the reflection of the work of literally HUNDREDS of writers, hundreds of artists, hundreds of editors, all working and sharing the effort decade after decade to make him that icon.

So while the letter of the law might be concerned with the minutiea of Copyright Laws and extensions and whatnot. This is just a greedy money grab by grandchildren and a lawyer of dubious reputation looking to get a free ride on the backs of others AFTER all the hard work has been put in.

Fuck you, Mark Toberoff. I shit in your eye.
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Re: No More Superman for DC?

Postby anarky » Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:00 pm

Even if the creators get the copyright, DC (Warner Bros) still owns the trademarks. They can't do anything. The worst they could do is prevent any Superman from being published... which would be stupid, since, if they actually own the character, they'd stand to benefit financially.
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Comics Legal Battles!

Postby Rollo Tomassi » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:03 pm

I figured this would be good catch-all topic for stuff like Moore vs DC, Kirby vs Marvel, Liefeld vs Everyone, etc.

But currently, I'm watching this Friedrich vs Marvel thing.
A recent quote from Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley raised my eyebrow.
Buckley: We should also clarify another rumor that Marvel is somehow preventing Gary from promoting his creative association with Ghost Rider. This is simply not true. The court document Joe mentioned specifically gives Gary the right to sign authorized Ghost Rider books and merchandise and sell his autograph.


I'm wondering how Marvel can legislate how and where Friedrich can sell his autograph? You, I, or Gary can sell our autograph anywhere we please. And we can sell it ON anything we please. I can sell my autograph for $10,000 on Amazing Spider-Man #1 if I want (and somebody is willing to pay for it). You can autograph a Lambroghini Diablo for $3.50 if you want. And Gary Friedrich can sell his autograph for however the fuck much he wants on whatever he wants. That's between the autographer and the person who purchases it. So fuck you, Dan Buckley. Quit acting like your doing the guy a favor by magnanimously allowing a guy to sign his own name for fans.
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Re: Comics Legal Battles!

Postby Diabolical » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:46 pm

Also Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane's long running lawsuit has come to an end.
A judge ruled in favor of Gaiman, who gets half of Spawn #9 & 26, plus a few spinoffs.
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Re: Comics Legal Battles!

Postby jjreason » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:47 pm

Unless he's under contract not to, or to pay percentages to someone for every sig he sells. *shrugs*

I don't give a shit - I've never heard of the guy.

The Kirby vs Marvel thing isn't looking good for the King's family last I heard, I'll have to search the internet for an update. I hear they have it for computers now.
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Re: Comics Legal Battles!

Postby anarky » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:01 pm

I seem to recall that he co-created the western Ghost Rider, and is selling and autographing homemade stuff with Johnny Blaze on it. If that's true, well, I normally don't side with the huge dickweed corporations, but they would have a point.
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Re: Comics Legal Battles!

Postby Rollo Tomassi » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:09 pm

Diabolical wrote:Also Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane's long running lawsuit has come to an end.
A judge ruled in favor of Gaiman, who gets half of Spawn #9 & 26, plus a few spinoffs.

Huzzah! Neil Gaiman gets 12.5 cents every time somebody buys Spawn 9 out of a quarter bin!! :|
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