We’re going to have to leave explaining this one to the lawyers. Short version — while the decision did rule in WB/DC’s favor, it did leave the matter of a Superman film up in the air, as further delays in making a Superman movie could be seen as actionable.
A major point that you have to understand is that it is not the Court’s responsibility to determine if DC Comics got the best deal possible, but only that the deal was reasonable. In fact, Larson basically seemed to come down on the side of thinking that the licensing fee DC was paid for Superman Returns was on the low side of things, but he did not feel that it was unreasonably low. Larson specifically denied the Siegels’ claim that Superman should be treated like a major novel or a musical, as Larson agreed with the defendants that in the case of comic book licensing, the film company is licensing the characters, not the story (as noted by the many years that Warner Bros. Entertainment spent trying to come up with a workable script for a Superman film). When a film company licenses a novel, however, they’re basically getting a rough screenplay right from the beginning, and as such, popular novels and musicals are much more valuable. So even if Larson felt that the licensing fee was a bit on the low side, it was still a reasonable fee.
Jeff Trexler, who has been following Superman related legal cases for a long time, has a brief analysis here, and a longer piece here including the news that a special master has been assigned to the case:
The judge presiding over the Siegel Superman trials has set December 1, 2009 as the start date for the apportionment phase, with a pre-trial hearing scheduled for November 9. But that doesn’t mean the case will be dormant until then. Citing the difficulties evident in determining the fair market value of the Superman properties, the judge has provided for the appointment of a special master/court-appointed expert to issue a report before the trial. The parties have until July 31 to make a joint stipulation as to who this master/expert should be. As the court indicates, the appointment of a special master is appropriate in cases that involve accounting issues and other complex matters that could be difficult for a judge to resolve effectively.