Home Entertainment ‘Total control’: Warner Bros. wins legal battle over Superman

‘Total control’: Warner Bros. wins legal battle over Superman

AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary
AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary

It’s been finally carved in kryptonite: Superman officially belongs to Warner Bros. An appeals court has granted complete commercial control of the iconic Superman franchise to one of the major film studios.

A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the heirs of Superman’s co-creator, Jerome Siegel, must abide by a  letter written by the family’s attorney in 2001, accepting Warner Bros.’ offer for their 50 percent share of Superman. Despite the fact that the letter was never formalized into a contract, according to the appeals court it was still binding.

“Statements from the attorneys for both parties establish that the parties had undertaken years of negotiations, that they had resolved the last outstanding point in the deal during a conversation on Oct. 15, 2001, and that the letter accurately reflected the material terms they had orally agreed to on that day,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the panel, AP reported.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals therefore undoes the 2008 court decision ordering Warner Bros. to share an undetermined amount of money earned since 1999 with the heirs, as well as to give the family control of key components of the Superman story, including his costume. If that decision were to stand, the studio would have had to negotiate a new costly royalty agreement with the family, according to AP.

“The court’s decision paves the way for the Siegel finally to receive the compensation they negotiated for and which DC has been prepared to pay for over a decade,” Warner Bros. said in a statement.“We are extremely pleased that Superman’s adventures can continue to be enjoyed across all media platforms worldwide for generations to come.”

Earlier the family’s attorney promised to appeal another Warner Bros. victory involving the family of Superman’s other creator, Joseph Shuster, and their bid for half the commercial rights. Marc Toberoff also represents the Shuster heirs, who lost their bid to retain half a share of Superman.

A federal judge in Los Angeles had ruled that Shuster’s sister and brother relinquished any chance to reclaim Superman copyrights in exchange for annual pension payments from DC Comics. According to U.S. District Judge Otis Wright, the families of both creators have received over $4 million since 1978, plus undefined bonuses and medical benefits.

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