Trial Dates Set for Siegel vs. DC
Inside the legal battle for Superman!
The family of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel are getting their day in court. According to legal paperwork posted by blogger JEFF TREXLER, a May 13, 2008, trial date has been set for the suit of Joanne Siegel (widow of Jerry) and Laura Siegel Larson (daughter of Jerry) against Warner Brothers, Time Warner and DC Comics over the ownership of Superman. The related lawsuit over Superboy will go to trial after that date.
Those trial dates are preceded by a settlement conference deadline and court-ordered mediation-—the trial may not occur at all if both sides can come to a mutually acceptable settlement.
Newsarama has more than 200 pages of documents covering the legal issues around the claims against Warner Bros, and has posted summaries of both complaints filed by the Siegels, the response, and the counterclaim of the corporate defendants.
The Siegels, working with attorney Marc Toberoff, filed complaints alleging a refusal to honor the copyright termination notice for both Superman and Superboy. Under the Amendment made to the Copyright Act in 1976, original creators or their heirs have a five year window during which they can file a notice of termination of the transfer of copyright, meaning that they can effectively end the transfer of the copyright that they originally made with a publisher or other corporation which would have been able to exploit the property in a way unavailable to the creator. The window for filing the termination notice for Superman opened in 1994, the Siegels filed their paperwork in 1997, and the termination became effective in 1999.
Siegel and Superman co-creator Joe Shuster had fully created the character and world of Superman before transferring the copyright to National Periodical Publications (later DC Comics) in 1938; therefore 'Superman' was not a "work made for hire."
According to the complaint filed in October, the Siegels estimate that their share of the monies generated by the Superman rights since the effective date of the termination are in excess of $40 million. They are asking the Court to clarify, among other things, the ownership of the Superman copyright, the establishment of profit-sharing, and the ownership of the 'S' shield. The defendants answered in November with a response and a counterclaim.
Warner Bros has requested that the separate complaints over Superman and his younger self be consolidated into one action, due to the view that the actions involve many of the identical copyrights. The hearing to determine whether the two will be combined into one is scheduled for March 14th.
Robert Vosper, of the Corporate Legal Times, wrote: "Anyone who decides to take legal action against DC Comics is not only taking on the publisher, but also the entire Time Warner media empire and its vast legal resources. Most likely, there would be few winners in such a battle."
To paraphrase a trusted source of this writer, it appears that the Siegels think that to be as good a reason as any to fight it.
[Original article by MATT BRADY at Newsarama. Thanks to ED LIU at Toonzone for the link.]