Warner Bros. Wins Legal Victory over Superman Rights
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 16:10
Warner Bros., the multimedia company that owns DC Comics, has won a decisive legal battle against the family of Joe Shuster, one of the co-creators of Superman.
An article in Variety discussed the case this week. Specifically, it featured comments from a federal judge citing an agreement made by the Shuster family in 1992 that prevents them now from “exercising a portion of copyright law that allows authors to recapture their works.”
The judge involved was U.S. District Judge Otis Wright. Regarding the case, Wright wrote “the effort by Jean Peavy, the sister of Joseph Shuster, and her son, Mark Warren Peary, to exercise a so-called “termination right” was superseded by a 1992 pact made shortly after Shuster’s death. In it, Peavy and her brother Frank signed a deal with DC Comics, a unit of Warner Bros., to cover Joseph Shuster’s debts and pay her $25,000 a year for the rest of her life. Wright noted in his opinion that DC’s then-executive vice president Paul Levitz admonished them that by taking the agreement, they “would fully resolve any past, present or future claims against DC.”
Warner Bros. currently produces games, toys, movies, television series, animated shows and many, many other things based on the Superman product.
IGN notes in their own write-up of the story that, even if this case was to eventually swing in the Shuster family’s favor, it would be unlikely for that to change. However, it would probably mean that the company would have to pay a great deal of money to the family in order to rent the character.
In spite of the Shuster family’s issues, the family of Shuster’s fellow co-creator, Jerry Siegel is having greater luck. Last week, the LA Times reported that a judge in 2008 ruled in favor of Siegel’s heirs, stating that they own 50 percent of the rights to the character from Warner Bros. The company is set to appeal the case on Nov. 5.
Warner Bros. is currently working on a new Superman film titled “Man of Steel,” being directed by Zack Snyder (Sucker Punch, Watchmen). The film is scheduled for release some time in 2013.
With a new film underway, and the character’s someone patched popularity in the comic book scene following DC Comic’s New 52, it’s likely that Warner Bros. will want to wrap these issues up as soon as possible.