Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

October 18, 2012

Warner Bros Wins Victory Against Shusters In Superman Battle

imageThere are a bunch of news stories about a decision yesterday favoring DC Comics owner Warner Bros over the Shuster Family, represented by lawyer Marc Toberoff. Here's one. It looks to me on a first pass that the judgment says that the Shuster Family negotiated away the right they were re-claiming under copyright law in order to secure, basically, a $25,000 pension for Shuster's sister -- a pension that was occasionally supplemented by additional payments from the owners of the billion-dollar character. That seems a logical legal principle as far as my Fake Internet Law Degree goes. It's darkly, stab-both-your-eyes out ironic that Warner/DC's parsimony in forcing an elderly woman to haggle for a 23-year-old's income with everything she had at her disposal is actually benefiting the company down the line.

This puts an even bigger target on November 5th's hearing where Warner Bros lawyers seek to deny the late-1990s restoration of claim from the family of Jerry Siegel. The Laura Siegel Larson letter from last week and news yesterday that the Shuster Family plans to appeal would seem to indicate this isn't ending any time soon no matter what the outcome is on November 5. However, yesterday's seems to me a major decision -- and the November 5 decision could be even more major -- and in the same way the still-continuing Kirby Family action against Marvel suffered an outright gut punch for the ages in that legal tussle's summary decision, this is a severe blow.

I never really thought the law was on the families' side, in that I was actually more surprised that the Siegels ever won a legal victory more than I am the Shusters and potentially the Siegels are seeing less favorable outcomes now. I mean, I know what I want the law to say, but it always seemed to me sort of stacked in the companies' direction. The whole thing fills me with sadness that so much money has been made over the years, all over a character that's presented as a paragon of moral virtue, and what little reward the families have received has been almost all fought for rather than just granted. It ruins the character for me, to be honest, which is difficult only in that I have a hard time caring about certain childhood characters as an adult at all. I know not everyone agrees with me on that, but it's hard for me to see this as a best outcome. I think it's okay to want best outcomes.
posted 10:00 am PST | Permalink

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