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DC wins one Superman court case

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Today, a decision was handed down in one of the lawsuits involving Superman and the Siegel family. The Siegel family — including Joanne Siegel and Laura Sigel Larson — were granted half the copyright to Superman in 1999, and the present case involved their share of the revenue from such Superman appearances as Smallville. The Siegels argued that a “sweetheart deal” from Warner Bros. led to lower than market value licensing fees for the use of Superman.

However, the court did not see it that way, and ruled that the fees were within market value.

DC released a statement, reading:

DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment are very gratified by the court’s thorough and well-reasoned decision in this matter. The decision validates what DC and Warner Bros. have maintained from the beginning, which is that when they do business with each other, they always strive for – and achieve – fair market value in their transactions. We are very pleased that the court found there was no merit to plaintiffs’ position that the Superman deals were unfair to DC Comics and, by extension, the plaintiffs.

The decision can be read here.

CBR has some commentary. Jeff Trexler, who is closely following the case, has brief comments here and here. We’ll have some more commentary after we read the decision.

  1. every single person at DC should be dancing for and praying to the Siegel family every day.

    every person in comics in general should at the very least look down on any one who refuses to give them what is far far less than what the are due

  2. What I don’t understand, from a corporate perspective, is how DC Comics and Warner Bros. Studios are considered completely separate entities for purposes of agreements such as the ones mentioned in the court document (that is, how DC can shop its characters to other movie studios, how one division pays rights to another, etc.). If they’re all part of the same corporate parent, why does one Time Warner entity pay another Time Warner entity for rights which are wholly owned within that corporate parent’s umbrella?

  3. “If they’re all part of the same corporate parent, why does one Time Warner entity pay another Time Warner entity for rights which are wholly owned within that corporate parent’s umbrella?”

    Even if the two divisions are part of the same corporation, they almost surely operate with separate budgets, expenses, revenue forecasts, etc.. So that each business’s business looks as it should, there’s going to be a notation that the division buying rights did so by expending such-and-such amount, and the division selling rights derived such-and-such amount of revenue for the sale. These may ultimately take the form of changing a few line items in the corporate budget, rather than actually cutting an actual check for the money, but there’s got to be some acknowledgment of the deal’s financials, even if it happens all within the same corporation.

  4. “DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment are very gratified by the court’s thorough and well-reasoned decision in this matter.”

    I would have removed this sentence before sending out the press release. After all, you can imagine how it would have read if the court ruled in favor of the Siegels.

    “If they’re all part of the same corporate parent, why does one Time Warner entity pay another Time Warner entity for rights which are wholly owned within that corporate parent’s umbrella?”

    Refer to the court’s decision, wherein the Siegels received lower money for licensing. That’s why.

  5. 1. I agree with rich just above that the sentence should have been removed. Even from a PR release, it’s too self serving. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.

    2. I hope this gets finished soon, and that the Siegel family gets a bucket or two of money.

    3. I took an accounting course a long time ago, and I believe I remember that a business HAS TO make note of business deals with sister corporations in the same way as they do with outside corporations. Yes, the resulting money eventually all goes into the same big pot, but the accounting must be shown.

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