Warner Bros. and DC Comics now have the rights to produce Superman stories in all media after a judge ruled Wednesday that the heirs of one of Superman’s co-creators signed away their ability to reclaim the copyright for the character 20 years ago.
This means that DC can make Superman comics, movies, TV shows, video games, cartoons, and whatever else they want, free and clear.
Here are more details about the legal saga’s latest chapter from the Associated Press below:
DC Comics sued the heirs of artist Joe Shuster in 2010, seeking a ruling that they lost their ability to try to reclaim the superhero’s copyrights in 1992. U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright II agreed, stating that Shuster’s sister and brother relinquished any chance to reclaim Superman copyrights in exchange for annual pension payments from DC Comics.
Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel created Superman, who made his comic book debut in 1938 in Action Comics #1. Both men battled for increased compensation for the superhero throughout their lives and Siegel’s heirs have also fought DC for a stake in copyrights to Superman.
Shuster’s heirs had argued that the copyright agreements could be terminated under provisions that allowed creators of works made before 1978 a mechanism to reclaim their rights. Wright ruled that the decision by Shuster’s sister to accept higher annual payments created a new agreement and the pre-1978 rights no longer applied.
“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 judgment hearing,” the Shusters’ attorney Marc Toberoff wrote in a statement. He declined further comment, and Warner Bros. and its attorney Daniel
Petrocelli also declined comment on the ruling.
Toberoff had argued that an agreement altering copyright interests would have been much longer than the one-page 1992 agreement between DC Comics and Shuster’s sister, Joan Shuster Peavy, and his brother, Frank.
The latest Superman film, “Man of Steel” is scheduled to land in theaters in 2013. Director Zach Snyder told fans earlier this year at Comic-Con that his film would make the superhero more relatable than previous depictions that showed him as “a big blue Boy Scout up on the throne and you can’t really touch him.”
In April, the $412 check that DC Comics wrote to acquire Superman and other creative works by Shuster and Siegel sold for $160,000 in an online auction.