9th US Circuit of Appeals rules in favor of Warner Bros. in the long-running dispute with Jerry Siegel’s heirs over commercial control of the Superman property.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th US Circuit of Appeals ruled that a 2001 oral agreement between Warner Bros. and the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel granting the former full commercial control of the Superman property is legally binding. Reinhardt’s ruling effectively does away with a previous 2008 decision by Judge Larson of the US District Court for the Central District of California awarding Siegel’s estate an unspecified share of all Superman-generated earnings compiled by Warner Bros. since 1999, when Siegel’s wife and daughter attempted to reclaim his share of the Superman copyright by filing for a termination of copyright notice.
The ruling could not have come at a more fortuitous time for Warner Bros., with a new Superman film entitled Man of Steel due out in theaters on 14 June.
However, Siegel counsel Marc Toberoff, who also represents the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, has stated that the Shuster family plans to contest a separate 2012 decision awarding Warner Bros. the rights to the Superman property.
Warner Bros. has made over $500 million from five Superman films and billions more from Superman comics, television shows, toys, games, and other merchandise and media, while the Siegel and Shuster families have received from Warner Bros. in excess of $4 million in various payments since 1978.
To review the legal issues surrounding the ownership of the Superman property, proceed here.