With the summer release of Man of Steel looming, Warner Bros. have won a significant legal victory over the heirs of one of the co-creators of Superman, giving it total commercial control of the superhero.
The unanimous court judgment was handed down by a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit of Appeals, which stated that Jerome [Jerry] Siegel’s heirs must adhere to the terms of a 2001 letter that accepted Warner’s offer for their 50 percent share of Superman.
Even though the five-page letter was never actually formalised into a contract, the court decided it was still binding,BBC News reports.
Referring to both parties, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote:
“Statements from the attorneys for both parties establish that the parties had undertaken years of negotiations, that they had resolved the last outstanding point … during a conversation on Oct. 15, 2001, and that the letter accurately reflected the material terms they had orally agreed to on that day.”
The ruling effectively reverses a 2008 court decision that ordered Warner Bros. to share monies earned since 1999 with the heirs, and to give the family control of fundamental aspects of the Superman brand — notably, his costume.
Warner Bros. palpable relief is evidenced by the statement they released. It reads:
“The court’s decision paves the way for the Siegel finally to receive the compensation they negotiated for and which DC [Comics] has been prepared to pay for over a decade. We are extremely pleased that Superman’s adventures can continue to be enjoyed across all media platforms worldwide for generations to come.”
As of today, the Siegel family’s attorney Marc Toberoff has not yet responded to media requests for comment, Inquirer Entertainment notes.
However, Toberoff — who also represents the heirs of the other co-creator Joe Shuster — has reportedly indicated that the Shuster heirs will appeal an October 2012 court decision which also awarded Warner Bros all rights to the Superman character, said BBC News.
Superman’s co-creators, Joe Shuster and Siegel, fought for higher recompense for their comic book creation throughout their entire lives. DC Comics sued Shuster’s siblings in 2010, arguing that they had given up their right to reclaim the copyrights because they had accepted increased annual pension payments from them.
In that earlier legal action, the judge ruled that the siblings’ decision to accept higher payments had created a new agreement, in effect, annulling any previous contract.
This latest victory leaves the road clear for Warner Bros. to capitalize on their movie investment and relationship with DC Comics.
The highly anticipated rebooted return of the Superman franchise will see Henry Cavill in the lead role for the first time.
The Brit actor will star alongside Oscar nominee Amy Adams who plays Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent.
Directed by Zack Snyder, penned by David S. Goyer, and co-produced by Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, Deborah Snyder and Christopher Nolan, Man of Steel will be released in IMAX 3D and hits theaters on June 14.