The Legal Battle for SUPERMAN Rights is Getting Dirty

As we reported earlier the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster have filled a lawsuit against Warner Bros. and DC to get back little bits and pieces to the story rights of the Man of Steel. In 2013 Warner Bros. is most likely going to lose some rights to the story of Superman. But it looks like the studio is going to do everything they can to keep all the rights to Superman, if that means playing dirty so be it. These guys are taking of the gloves here's what they are doing.

Warner Bros. hired a Lawyer by the name of Daniel Petrocelli to come up with a new plan to prevent the studio from possibly losing the portion of the copyright to Superman in 2013 as a court has previously ruled.

His plan is to get rid of the lawyer representing the Siegel family. Marc Toberoff. Just take him right out of the lawsuit. How is he going to do that? Why file a lawsuit against him of course. That's what the new studio legal team has done.

The lawsuit they filled raising questions about his alleged role as a financial participant in the Superman copyright and not as the attorney for the Shuster and Siegel families fighting their Superman cases. What this lawsuit does is put Toberoff in a position where he may have to resign as the Siegel and Shuster attorney altogether.

This is the kind of hardball the big boys play when they feel they are in a corner. There's no doubt that people are going to see this as a dick move. According to Deadline the this whole plan hinges on documents stolen from Toberoff's office by a Toberoff employee. Wow! Of course Warner Bros. claims the documents mysteriously "arrived" on its doorstep and that the employee was a lawyer in Toberoff's firm and a "whistleblower". Of course Toberoff has indicated that something much more sinister may have went down. Like Warner Bros. paying some one off to have these documents stolen?

There are a lot of Superman fans who are rooting for the Shuster's and Siegals in this Lawsuit, and for Warner Bros and DC to go out and do something like this could push away their fan base. 

If this doesn't work, when 2013 roles around the Siegals and Shusters will own a portion of the original copyright to Superman, "and neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros will be able to exploit any new Superman works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters". And if  Warner Bros. doesn't start production on a new Superman film by 2011, the Siegels can sue to recover their damages on the grounds that the deal should have contained a clause in which the rights returned to the owners after a given time if no film was in development.

The Siegel heirs have already been awarded half the copyright for Superman. And in 2013 the heirs of co-creator Joe Shuster will get the remaining half. After that, neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros will be able to use Superman without a financial agreement with the heirs. There are also stipulations on what parts of the origins story can be used in future Superman movies and which require re-negotiations with the creators' heirs or estates.

This is just crazy! Who would have thought it would come to this? Each party in the lawsuit has their reasons for doing what they are doing, but I suit wish this could have all been taken care of with a lot more class. I'm sure their could have been a happy medium in there some place in the beginning, but we're way past that now. 

Thanks to deadline for all this information, and here are some points that were listed today regarding the lawsuit that you might find interesting.


  • DC Comics filed suit today in the federal court in Los Angeles to protect its longstanding rights in the Superman franchise.  During the past 70 years, DC and Warner Bros. have brought together many of the finest writers, artists, television producers and filmmakers to continue to popularize Superman, chronicle his new adventures in all media, and maintain him as one of the world’s best-loved characters.  The untold millions invested in the property by DC has resulted in an unbroken 70-year history of consistent success with Superman, equaled by no other fictional hero.
  • During their lifetimes, Superman co-creators Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster never tried to exercise any right to terminate and recapture DC's copyrights to Superman. They worked constructively with DC to arrive at mutually beneficial agreements, and after their deaths, so did their families.  These agreements provided both co-creators and their families lifetime compensation and assured DC's ability to continue developing and exploiting the Superman property in movies, television, and other media.
  • The lawsuit alleges that changed when Los Angeles-based Marc Toberoff and companies under his control learned of WB's agreements with the families and sought to gain control of DC’s Superman rights.  As alleged in the lawsuit, Toberoff caused the Shuster and Siegel families to repudiate their agreements and relations with DC, enter into a web of new agreements with his companies, and terminate and seek to recapture DC’s Superman copyright interests. The complaint alleges this was done to position Toberoff and his companies to secure a controlling financial interest in the families' collective claims — leaving him as the largest financial stakeholder (47.5%), while relegating the Siegel heirs (27.5%) and Shuster heirs (25%) to minority status.
  • At issue is the future generation of Superman movies, television programs, and comics would be placed at risk.  The lawsuit asks the Court to confirm DC’s ownership of Superman rights, put an end to Toberoff's activity allegedly interfering with the rights, and clear the way for all new Superman productions in the future. DC claims it filed this lawsuit only after exhaustive attempts to resolve these matters failed.

So there ya have it. What side are you on?

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