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JUDGE SAYS SIEGELS NOW OWN HALF OF SUPERMAN

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  • DK
    by Brian Cronin, Staff Writer Posted: March 28, 2008 — More From This Author In a possibly historic ruling, a federal judge Wednesday determined that the
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 28, 2008
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      by Brian Cronin, Staff Writer
      Posted: March 28, 2008 — More From This Author

      In a possibly historic ruling, a federal judge Wednesday determined
      that the heirs of Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel, are now the
      rightful owners of one-half of the copyright of Superman, and have
      been since 1999. The New York Times reported today that Judge
      Stephen Larson of the Central District of California had delivered a
      whopping 72 page ruling on the matter of who owns the copyright of
      Superman, establishing that "Action Comics" #1, the first appearance
      of Superman, was not considered to be a product of work-for-hire,
      making the copyright for that issue (and, naturally, the character
      of Superman) eligible for termination by Siegel's heirs. What that
      means in simpler terms -- the Siegel's now own half of the Superman
      copyright.
      The ruling was based upon changes made in 1976 to the Copyright Act,
      extending the total length of copyright protection for a character
      like Superman from 56 years to 75 years since creation. This change
      also allowed any copyright transfers to be terminated so that the
      original copyright owner (or his/her heirs) could gain the benefit
      of those extra 19 years of protection (with the presumption being
      that it would be unfair to the original copyright owners, as any
      deals they made before the change in law were based upon the 56 year
      duration, not 75).

      DC has an array of defenses, but their best one was that "Action
      Comics" #1 was a work-for-hire, which means that DC would be
      considered the creator of the copyright. Larson ruled against DC on
      this point, stating that Siegel and Shuster sold their property (and
      the copyrights therein) to DC for $130, in a standard copyright
      transfer. It is this transfer that Siegel's heirs filed for
      termination, which would have become effective in 1999, which Larson
      confirmed Wednesday.

      There are a number of details still at play here, of course. The
      most notable right now is that DC will certainly appeal Larson's
      decision. The second is that Larson left it open to a jury to
      determine both how much money Time Warner (owner of DC Comics) owes
      the Siegels for the usage of Superman since 1999 (note this is only
      for US rights of Superman, DC still maintains full international
      rights), and how many rights the Siegels have to characters created
      after "Action Comics" #1 (as those later issues were work-for-hire,
      but how many of these characters were derivatives of Superman?).

      Finally, the most notable event for future details is that this
      opens up an extremely interesting situation in 2013. In 2013, Joe
      Shuster's estate is eligible to terminate their half of the Superman
      copyright. You see, Shuster had no heirs, so his estate was unable
      to terminate those extra 19 years mentioned before, as the changes
      in 1976 to the Copyright Act were only available to authors or their
      heirs. In 1998, however, the Copyright Term Extension Act was
      passed, giving an additional 20 years to all copyrights established
      before 1978. Unlike the previous Copyright Act extension, the Act
      passed in 1998 gives the estate of Authors the right to terminate,
      as well. Therefore, in 2013, Shuster's estate (represented by
      Shuster's nephew Mark Peary) will terminate just like Siegel's
      heirs, meaning DC might very well lose the copyright to Superman
      entirely until 2033, at which point Superman would enter the public
      domain. Of course, who knows whether Congress will pass another
      extension before then.

      http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=13526
    • Al
      What about Joe Simon and Captain America? Too bad Jack Kirby never tried to get his rights.
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 29, 2008
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        What about Joe Simon and Captain America? Too bad Jack Kirby never tried to
        get his rights.
      • Daniel Ross
        As I WAS saying Before The Shazam Movie The Rock is acting as Black Adam I hope they cast John Cena as Captain Marvel DK wrote: by
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 30, 2008
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          As I WAS saying Before The Shazam Movie The Rock is  acting as Black Adam I hope they cast John Cena as Captain Marvel DK <jetstar001@...> wrote:

          by Brian Cronin, Staff Writer
          Posted: March 28, 2008 — More From This Author

          In a possibly historic ruling, a federal judge Wednesday determined
          that the heirs of Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel, are now the
          rightful owners of one-half of the copyright of Superman, and have
          been since 1999. The New York Times reported today that Judge
          Stephen Larson of the Central District of California had delivered a
          whopping 72 page ruling on the matter of who owns the copyright of
          Superman, establishing that "Action Comics" #1, the first appearance
          of Superman, was not considered to be a product of work-for-hire,
          making the copyright for that issue (and, naturally, the character
          of Superman) eligible for termination by Siegel's heirs. What that
          means in simpler terms -- the Siegel's now own half of the Superman
          copyright.
          The ruling was based upon changes made in 1976 to the Copyright Act,
          extending the total length of copyright protection for a character
          like Superman from 56 years to 75 years since creation. This change
          also allowed any copyright transfers to be terminated so that the
          original copyright owner (or his/her heirs) could gain the benefit
          of those extra 19 years of protection (with the presumption being
          that it would be unfair to the original copyright owners, as any
          deals they made before the change in law were based upon the 56 year
          duration, not 75).

          DC has an array of defenses, but their best one was that "Action
          Comics" #1 was a work-for-hire, which means that DC would be
          considered the creator of the copyright. Larson ruled against DC on
          this point, stating that Siegel and Shuster sold their property (and
          the copyrights therein) to DC for $130, in a standard copyright
          transfer. It is this transfer that Siegel's heirs filed for
          termination, which would have become effective in 1999, which Larson
          confirmed Wednesday.

          There are a number of details still at play here, of course. The
          most notable right now is that DC will certainly appeal Larson's
          decision. The second is that Larson left it open to a jury to
          determine both how much money Time Warner (owner of DC Comics) owes
          the Siegels for the usage of Superman since 1999 (note this is only
          for US rights of Superman, DC still maintains full international
          rights), and how many rights the Siegels have to characters created
          after "Action Comics" #1 (as those later issues were work-for-hire,
          but how many of these characters were derivatives of Superman?).

          Finally, the most notable event for future details is that this
          opens up an extremely interesting situation in 2013. In 2013, Joe
          Shuster's estate is eligible to terminate their half of the Superman
          copyright. You see, Shuster had no heirs, so his estate was unable
          to terminate those extra 19 years mentioned before, as the changes
          in 1976 to the Copyright Act were only available to authors or their
          heirs. In 1998, however, the Copyright Term Extension Act was
          passed, giving an additional 20 years to all copyrights established
          before 1978. Unlike the previous Copyright Act extension, the Act
          passed in 1998 gives the estate of Authors the right to terminate,
          as well. Therefore, in 2013, Shuster's estate (represented by
          Shuster's nephew Mark Peary) will terminate just like Siegel's
          heirs, meaning DC might very well lose the copyright to Superman
          entirely until 2033, at which point Superman would enter the public
          domain. Of course, who knows whether Congress will pass another
          extension before then.

          http://www.comicboo kresources. com/news/ newsitem. cgi?id=13526





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