IN THE 1930s, publishing bosses Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld paid a couple of young men $130 for the rights to Superman.
It sometimes seems as though Superman has been duking it out in court ever since, with mega-millions ultimately at stake.
The Man of Steel’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, both died in the ‘90s, after decades of squabbling with National Comics/DC Comics/Warner Bros. over rights and royalties.
On Wednesday, the perpetual fight — now waged by the descendants — got its latest crucial plot twist:
A federal judge in California has ruled that Shuster’s heirs cannot reclaim copyrights to Superman. U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright decided that those rights were surrendered 20 years ago when Shuster’s siblings reached an annual payment agreement with DC Comics and gave up interest in the Son of Krypton.
“The 1992 Agreement, which represented the Shuster heirs’ opportunity to renegotiate the prior grants of Joe Shuster’s copyrights, superseded and replaced all prior grants of the Superman copyrights,” the judge ruled, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Seeking a ruling on the character’s rights, DC sued Schuster’s heirs two years ago.
The ruling, according to the Associated Press, “means that DC Comics and its owner Warner Bros. will retain all rights to continue using the character in books, films, television and other mediums.”
That renders this a major ruling involving one of the world’s most lucrative superheroes.
The latest Superman film, “Man of Steel” — directed by Zack Snyder with Henry Cavill donning the cape — is due out next year.
From Christopher Reeve to Brandon Routh, the five Superman feature films have grossed more than a half-billion dollars domestically.
As for that first Superman check: Siegel and Shuster cashed that first check of $412 — for rights plus contracted work — as their Superman debuted in 1938. In April, that check itself sold for $160,000 at auction.
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