It’s being reported that Warner Bros have won a court case which will determine who owns the copyright to Superman, meaning they will retain rights over the character. On Wednesday a court ruling was issued which stated that:
the studio’s motion has been granted for summary judgement on the question of whether a 1992 agreement with Jean Peavy, the sister of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, precludes the estate’s attempt to terminate a copyright grant.
In essence, this means that the court has ruled that the Shuster family have given up their claim on the Superman character, as Peavy’s decision to accept higher annual payments from the company in 2010 created a new deal — which invalidated any previous ones made by the family. This means that, for the time being, Warner Bros will continue to own half of the Superman character, with the other half belonging to the family of Jerry Siegel, his other co-creator. Warner have not commented on the ruling, but Marc Toberoff, lawyer for the Shuster estate, has issued the following statement:
We respectfully disagree with its factual and legal conclusions, and it is surprising given that the judge appeared to emphatically agree with our position at the summary judgement hearing.
This will likely lead to an appeal from the estate in the near future. This will be a sharp relief for Warner Bros, especially with the upcoming release of their ‘Man of Steel’ movie next year. Superman is one of the most profitable superhero characters of all time, having generated the company somewhere in excess of $500 million for the company over the years.
It is very unlikely that this is where the copyright battle will end for either party. DC are also currently contesting the Siegel estate’s claim for the other half of the copyright, with a court hearing set for November.