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Siegel Heirs Win Superman Case Get Share of Rights|
The heirs of Jerome Siegel won a share of the U.S. Superman copyright in a court ruling in Los Angeles, according to the New York Times. The judge held that the copyright termination notices served by the Siegel heirs in 1997 gave the Siegels rights to half of the copyright in Superman as depicted in Action Comics #1. DC Comics owns the other half until at least 2013, when a similar copyright termination on behalf of the heirs of Joseph Shuster could take effect, giving full control of the character to its creators until at least 2033. |
DC's international rights to the character were unaffected. The judge did not rule on the degree to which uses after the premiere of the character were based on its first appearance, or on the amount of any compensation due the heirs for the uses of the character after 1999, when the copyright termination took effect.
Also open is the question of whether the Siegel heirs should have a share in the profits from Superman Returns, which did around $200 million in domestic box office after its open over the July 4th weekend in 2006 (see "Supe's Solid, not Stellar").
The stakes for movies in the pipeline are also large. A sequel to Superman Returns is in pre-production (see "Superman Scribes Shed Series Shackles"), and Justice League is on track to be a 2009 tentpole release (see "Justice League Movie Back on Track").
The likelihood that this is the end of this case is slim. Time Warner and the Siegel heirs are still litigating over the rights to the Superboy character, on which a judge ruled for the heirs in 2006 (see "Judge Rules Siegel Heirs Have Recaptured Superboy Rights"). Let's hope that the comic world does better at settling these disputes than the world of children's fiction, where Disney has been in litigation over the merchandising rights to Winnie the Pooh since 1991 (see "Disney Drops Decision in Copyright Case").