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Warner Bros Secures Commercial Control of Superman

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the faster-than-a-speeding-cease-and-desist dept.

Businesses 196

AliasMarlowe writes "Warner Bros have won an important legal victory over the heirs of one of the creators of Superman, giving it total commercial control of the superhero. An appeals panel unanimously ruled that Jerome Siegel's heirs must abide by a 2001 letter accepting Warner's offer for their 50% share of Superman. The letter was never formally turned into a contract, but the Judge considered that it represented an oral agreement, which was binding. Warner Brothers now owns 100% of the Superman franchise."

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Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575609)

Then all this arguing would've been for nothing.

INCORPORATION == THEFT (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575701)

Copyright?
Crowbar.

Re:INCORPORATION == THEFT (1)

suso (153703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575771)

Crowbar?
heat vision

Re:INCORPORATION == THEFT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576055)

Heat vision?
Kryptonite

Re:INCORPORATION == THEFT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576285)

Kryptonite?
Lead suit.

Re:INCORPORATION == THEFT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576821)

Lead suit?
Crowbar.

Re:INCORPORATION == THEFT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576959)

Lead suit?
Crowbar.

You misspelled acid. [youtube.com]

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (5, Informative)

cdecoro (882384) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575707)

No; the character would continue to be protected by trademark rights. The name "Superman", the S logo, etc. are all indicators that a particular work that bears them originate from the "actual" owner of the marks; i.e., they are trademarks. And trademark is indefinite, so long as they continue in use. But that is how it should be: not just every movie studio should be able to make a Superman movie, because this would undermine the "real"/canonical Superman line. Fans could not be sure that the movie that they were going to see was the "official" Superman; the protection of trademark is therefore important to provide information to the consumer.

Now, that said, I agree that copyright's derivative work protection should not continue to prevent similar stories, so long as there is no risk of customer confusion. If another studio wants to make a movie about "Superduperman," from the planet Argon, who flies around in his caped underwear while saving the world, they should have every right to do so -- even while the copyright for "Superman" still runs.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575741)

Man and Superman Published 1903
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_and_Superman

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575855)

Fortunately for Warner, they can get a trademark on a term that is in common use, as long as it's reasonably identifiable.

And don't tell me Superman isn't.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (5, Insightful)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575849)

Fans could not be sure that the movie that they were going to see was the "official" Superman

The... The horror!

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (4, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576149)

Yes, the horror – just imagine a dark superman played by Nicolas Cage:

http://thepopcultist.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/how-producer-jon-peters-and-a-giant-spider-nearly-ruined-superman/ [wordpress.com]

Now – on a more serious note – I like seeing big budget movies based on comics, which only makes economic sense if they can sell the “official” trademarked merchandise.

On the other hand I don’t like our culture perpetually controlled by large corporations. Honestly, I am a bit more offended that Marvel / DC has a joint trademark on “super heroes”. Still trying to pick my way though this.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (3, Interesting)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576903)

Why do you think that big budget superhero movies are only economically viable if one source controls both the copyright on the characters and story used in the movie as well as for all merchandise featuring those characters, etc?

It certainly isn't true for big budget fairy tale movies. The last one Disney did was based on Rapunzel, had a budget of $260 million, and the main character and basic plot are in the public domain. And I'm sure that there were plenty of people trying to free ride on it by putting out toys and things based on the fairy tale. Yet they seem to have survived.

And also, why must we have big budget movies anyway? And if we must, why must they rely on such excessive copyrights to be made? Are there no alternatives?

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (4, Interesting)

Truekaiser (724672) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576965)

Disney is the prime example of abuse of copyright.
they take stories from the public domain, make them into movies that only have a little semblance to the original. then try to sue the crap out of anyone who uses the same public domain work to make their own version.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575871)

Try calling something "Coca-Cola". But at the same time the old ads (like Santa Clause) are long out of copyright and all over the intenet. Just not for selling said fizzy beverage.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575899)

Fans could not be sure that the movie that they were going to see was the "official" Superman

So what? I could not possibly care any less whether the last makeover of Batman was the "official" Batman or not.
It kicked ass, is what matters.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (5, Insightful)

kwerle (39371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575927)

Disagree. After a reasonable time, it should pass into the public domain. Anyone should be able to make a superman movie, comic, etc.

Hell, look how many "reboots" comics and sci-fi have recently received. Anyone should be able to reboot (or stick to the original) after things pass into PD - and things should pass.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576791)

I agree for stories, movies, etc. But I'm not sure it's a bad thing for corporations to be able to trademark their name, a logo and a limited number of other things to distinguish themselves. If I want an Apple product, I do not want some taiwanese shitshop selling me their "Apple", I want an Apple.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (1)

kwerle (39371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576867)

Good point.

where do you think they make apples? (1)

decora (1710862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576979)

those 'taiwanese shit shops' are the same factories responsible for the innards of the macbook ibook itoilet idouche ietcetetc.

Cannot use TM as ersatz copyright (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575949)

There are limits to which a trademark can be used to extend copyright-like exclusive rights after the expiry of the copyright term in the United States. Dastar v. Fox [wikipedia.org] .

Official? When? a generation ago? (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575999)

Nearly all "official" stories suck big time. I'd rather we could choose from all the unofficial stories and hopefully decent ones would prosper. It is not like copyright is required to make megabucks -- look at how Disney made nearly all his success off the public domain.

I'm not a moron who wants to see "reboots" every decade (or less) because 1 studio figures it is easier than taking the risk on a "new" story (which itself is just new to film... and likely the screen writers will have fucked up the transfer plenty good.)

there was this thing called "Usenet" (1)

decora (1710862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576987)

they would become our new 'masters of xyz universe'.

*shudder*

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (5, Interesting)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576005)

No, the trademark would likely suffer genericide.

Trademarks are not a functional substitute for copyrights. If a work is in the public domain, anyone can make copies of it and can make derivative works based on it. (Of course, a character is not quite the same as the first work in which it appears -- aspects of the Superman character which were introduced later, such as the ability to fly, weakness to kryptonite, changes to the costume, etc. would not be available until the works introducing those things also hit the public domain)

A trademark only functions when it indicates that a marked good or service originates from a particular source. If anyone can now create Superman comics, movies, tv shows, etc., because Action Comics #1 is in the public domain, this means that the use of the Superman name or character isn't indicating a single source. Thus, the trademark dies.

A good example of this was Kellogg v. National Buscuit. The latter had invented and patented a cereal and sold it using the mark SHREDDED WHEAT. When the patent expired, Kellogg started making it too, and also called it SHREDDED WHEAT. The Supreme Court decided that since SHREDDED WHEAT merely described the product, anyone could use the name now that the patent had run out and anyone could make the product.

There might be an argument for a surviving trademark on the title of the comic, not restricting the use of the name for the character, but it would be fairly weak, IMO. The use of the character name as a trademark for wholly unrelated goods and services would still work -- PETER PAN for bus travel services and for peanut butter doesn't interfere with, or suffer interference from, the character of Peter Pan being in the public domain in the US. But a viable SUPERMAN brand for tax preparation services or auto parts is probably small comfort to Warner Bros.

And meanwhile, if the fans want to stick to a particular canon, they can just look for the brand of the publisher, which is how it's done for other public domain works. You can go buy a copy of Shakespeare as it was printed in the First Folio, you can go buy copies of the bad quartos, you can buy the edited versions made by Bowdler, etc. No one is harmed by there being more choice, as all you have to do is ignore the ones you don't like. A trademark on Shakespeare is not necessary.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (1)

pla (258480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576161)

But that is how it should be: not just every movie studio should be able to make a Cinderella movie

FTFY.

Yes, trademarks also need to expire (not claiming they legally do, but they must, eventually). Fortunately, on that front, We The People can influence policy, simply by using them "wrong": Every time you xerox a document, you ride an elevator, you wipe snot with a kleenex, you photoshop a picture - You help speed the demise of a trademark via genericization.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576443)

For me, the only reason to worry about whether it's the "official" character or not is to determine if the story fits within the canon or not. The thing is, we're living in a post-continuity world as far as characters like Superman are concerned. Every incarnation in every medium stands alone. The continuity in the comics is bjorked to Krypton and back and the editors have no qualms about retconning and re-retconning and rebooting and re-inventing and re-imagining.

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576725)

How long should this last? Should the heirs of Thomas Malory have veto power over every retelling of the King Arthur story, to make sure that it conforms to the "official" and "canonical" version?

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576861)

phewy it should last no more long then original copyrights
all this does is stiffle others and innovation
prevents new ideas and fans and indies form a base to start from

its all control for elites
obamas elites that use prosecutors to kill people like that reddit guy

but who will protect us from the original owners? (1)

decora (1710862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576969)

george lucas did to star wars, what your society has done with all of nature's gifts

Re:Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limits (2)

hutsell (1228828) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576167)

Then all this arguing would've been for nothing.

Imagine there are no corporations, it's easy if you try; no copyright hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine -- people only being people, living for today. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one; I hope some day everyone will join us, and the world will be as one.

ya mean like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576671)

15 year or 20 year copyright instead of the 150 in usa and 160 that exists in canada

Re: Just imagine if copyright had reasonable limit (0)

corbettw (214229) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576777)

Or imagine if people didn't glom onto old characters constantly and instead looked for new and interesting characters and ideas. There's no reason a comic character from the 1930s should be relevant or profitable in the 2010s.

Licensing (4, Insightful)

Cruciform (42896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575645)

I think the most sensible thing for creators to do now is license rights, as opposed to sell. I'd rather copyright just go away after 20 years, opening up a whole new realm of fiction based on the original, but with the current system licensing seems better than someone getting the rights to your creation and then locking you out of it completely.
To a big company buying up the rights from the little guys isn't a huge expense in the scheme of things, while an artist or writer may find that the offer they are facing will keep a roof over their head for a year or two longer, putting them at a disadvantage at the bargaining table.

Re:Licensing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575779)

Licensing out is for CORPORATIONS, not puny serfs. Corporations are people, IS life itself, not people. People die easily and do not matter in the long run.
The same laws that protected and ensured prosperity to INDIANS, now apply to us all.
God help us all.

Public domain (5, Interesting)

geek (5680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575651)

How is Superman not public domain by now? He first showed up in 1938. That's over 70 years ago. This is ridiculous.

Re:Public domain (5, Informative)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575673)

Same reason Mickey Mouse isn't public domain yet. Copyright gets an extension when it nears the end.

Re:Public domain (5, Informative)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575931)

Mickey Mouse will never be public domain... The Mouse is used all over Disney every day as a trademark.

The specific WORKS would be public domain... So copy them all day, post on the Internets. Trying to make NEW works would be difficult because Disney is still using that character.

Re:Public domain (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576163)

Is there even a difference between trademark and copyright? Both seem to go hand-in-hand.

Re:Public domain (4, Informative)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576549)

Nothing of Mickey Mouse is in the public domain. The common joke is that copyright length is MIckey Mouse's birthday + 1.

No work from after 1923 will enter the public domain until 2019 unless its creator specifically puts it there.

Its complete fucking horse shit and that particular amendment should be unanimously voted off the books.

Unfortunately there are far too many politicians in the pockets of the big conglomerates such as disney for that to ever happen.

If copyright law had stayed as it was we'd have things right up into the 50's entering the public domain now.

Re:Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576819)

If copyright stayed as it was we would have stuff from 2006 entering the public domain now.

Re:Public domain (1)

skegg (666571) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576877)

Unfortunately there are far too many politicians in the pockets of the big conglomerates

Sad but true.

Re:Public domain (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576925)

Why not put in for a prtition at whitehouse.org? I understand they are all the rage.

Re:Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575677)

Omg

Because the evil copyright no other superheroes have been created in that time

Oh wait.......

Re:Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575903)

Pretty much all the other superheroes were created in that time. Do you have a point?

Re:Public domain (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575683)

Is he older than Steamboat Willie? That is the dividing line between being in the public domain already and never being there.

Re:Public domain (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575685)

Trademarks don't expire.

Can you imagine the chaos if they did?

Re:Public domain (5, Informative)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575719)

Not always true [cnn.com]

Once a brand name passes into such common usage that no one regards it as a proper noun anymore, its trademark can be ruled invalid, and anyone can capitalize on all the marketing you've put into it. (That's what happened to "Escalator": The company that owned the name let it become synonymous with moving staircases, and lost the trademark.)

Re:Public domain (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575795)

Also, trademarks expire if they are no longer used by the owner.

However, for Superman, both don't apply: "Superman" refers only to that specific superhero and is not used as generic name of superheroes, and obviously the trademark "Superman" is still in use.

Re:Public domain (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576031)

I have heard many times "...a superman..." used in a context which does not have anything to do with the character Superman. Depending on the context, it is a part of the English language.

Re:Public domain (3, Informative)

fatphil (181876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576211)

Superman wasn't even novel coinage anyway. It's equivalent to Uebermensch, which was in German decades earlier, at least by the time of Nietzsche, who used it.

Re:Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576701)

I think Uenermensch translates more accurately to supRAman, but it's debatable.

Re:Public domain (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576683)

"Man and Superman" was a play by George Bernard Shaw, written in 1903.

Re:Public domain (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576361)

This is why you see companies sending out letters and even suing people who use their trademarks.

For example McDonald's vs. Clan McDonald.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-02-02/news/9702020275_1_ronald-mcdonald-mcdonald-s-restaurants-scot [chicagotribune.com]

However that isn't really 'expiring'. It's losing the trademark for other reasons.

Re:Public domain (2)

sourcerror (1718066) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575717)

Authors death + 70 years.

Re:Public domain (3, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575791)

And at author's death + 69 years, a new law is passed to extend copyright to author's death + 140 years.

Re:Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576099)

Only if author == Walt Disney

Origionial Movie Idea (4, Funny)

feedayeen (1322473) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575861)

Authors death + 70 years.

Superman was invented 75 years ago in 1938, in 2013 a god awful movie comes out which must be stopped at all costs. Due to the Grandfather Paradox, we can not stop the creation of Superman; but if Superman falls into the Public Domain before the movie is released, Warner Bros will crease production immediately, knowing that they will never make money off of it. This gives our time traveling hero a short window of 5 years to track down and kill Jerome Siegel before it is too late.

This idea is not protected in any way, if somebody wants to make it into a movie, please do!

Re:Origionial Movie Idea (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576057)

Copyright protects individual works. The character may fall out of copyright, but the films and cartoons and the like will remain in copyright until they expire... if they are ever alloweed to. You predictions of chaos and lack of marketability are exagerated.

Re:Origionial Movie Idea (2)

feedayeen (1322473) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576277)

Copyright protects individual works. The character may fall out of copyright, but the films and cartoons and the like will remain in copyright until they expire... if they are ever alloweed to. You predictions of chaos and lack of marketability are exagerated.

This is Hollywood, we like our facts like we like our celebrities, plastic.

Re:Origionial Movie Idea (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576289)

He won't go into the public domain until at least 2033 at the earliest, movie or no movie.

Re:Origionial Movie Idea (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576323)

Due to the Grandfather Paradox, we can not stop the creation of Superman

But thank goodness we were able to go back in time and prevent the creation of the superhero named Grandfather Paradox. He was awful. Superman is a nice trade-off.

Re:Public domain (4, Insightful)

Blue Stone (582566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575723)

>How is Superman not public domain by now?

'Important', wealthy people own copyrights. Those copyrights expire. When they're nearly up, they lobby the government to make sure they can keep making money. The government listens to them because they have money and can therefore 'spread it around' (the government is corrupt) which results in a policy of 'the needs of the wealthy outweigh the needs of the many'.

Copyright will never end on mickey Mouse until he becomes an unprofitable commodity. The powerful and wealthy will bribe the easily corrupted and you'll get the 'best democracy money can buy'.

I hope that's answered your question.

Re:Public domain (3, Informative)

luke923 (778953) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575725)

Copyright law states that a copyright lasts up to 75 years after the author's death. Supes has got a while.

Re:Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575751)

The owners of Superman have made a long-term commercial business out of their Superman product.

Some Superman works are out of copyright, the animated cartoons from the 40s. But is it really a good idea that anybody anywhere could produce their own product branded as Superman?

Not too worried about pastiches, Superman has so many of those it's almost laughable. Icon, Supreme, The Sentry, Gladiator, Hyperion, Majestic, Apollo...

Re:Public domain (1)

IgnitusBoyone (840214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575959)

Even if superman was public domain that would only allow you to reprint the various stories already published. Writing new superman stories as long as DC is still publishing and actively protecting its trade marks is not possible with out licensing. This is different then Connan becoming public domain, because as far as I know no new cannon works had come out since the films and the trademarks were long left unprotected. (I'll go make sure of that now..)

Re:Public domain (1)

IgnitusBoyone (840214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575983)

Nope, I'm apparently wrong. Dark Horse makes a line of comics that has been under publication. Its possible though that they never licensed it, but if they did from wiki comes this information

"The name Conan and the names of Robert E. Howard's other principal characters are claimed as trademarked by Paradox Entertainment of Stockholm, Sweden, through its US subsidiary Paradox Entertainment Inc.[citation needed] Paradox copyrights stories written by other authors under license from Conan Properties Inc.[citation needed]"

Given the lack of citation I do not know if its correct or not.

Re:Public domain (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576257)

Because corporate-owned copyrights last for 95-120 years after creation/publication, which puts Superman in the public domain in 2033 at the very earliest and 2058 at the latest, provided copyright extension isn't granted again (which it surely will be by the end of the decade due to Disney). If his copyright was still owned by Shuster and Siegel it would continue for 70 years after their deaths, which were 1992 and 1996 respectively, putting his entry into PD in 2066.

And yes, it's fucking retarded.

Re:Public domain (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576339)

Because copyright terms have changed over the years [cornell.edu] . For a work published in 1938 whose copyright was renewed (as was necessary then, and we'll assume occurred), it doesn't enter public domain until 95 years later: 2033.

This would only apply to the character itself (which may also be a trademark, which falls under different rules), and the first stories about that character. More recent stories and characters would have even later expiration dates.

Good (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575655)

Maybe now his heirs can create new super heroes instead of living off royalty payments from a dead ancestor.

Re:Good (2)

game kid (805301) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575783)

Just as long as they're not "super heroes", or they'll have a whole different royalty problem [wikipedia.org] .

Superman V plot teaser (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575679)

A band of rogues led by Wile E Coyote and Elmer Fudd attempt to wreak havoc in Gotham City, and only Superman can save it. Trouble is, Superman has not been seen for months, as Clark Kent struggles against banks trying to foreclose his condo while his pal Bugs Bunny provides comic relief.

Meanwhile... (2)

luke923 (778953) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575739)

...The Flash is feasting on some Road Runner he caught earlier in the day.

Written Agreements not mandatory? (1)

Drumhellar (1656065) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575729)

I thought contract law made written agreements mandatory for anything over a certain value. I seem to remember my high school teacher saying that (at least in California) that anything over $200 REQUIRED the contract be on paper. Am I mistaken? Of course, this particular suit was in Federal court, so that wouldn't apply.

Re:Written Agreements not mandatory? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575809)

Contracts are only valid when they favour commercial interests. A while ago, there was a case in my region of a property developer pre-selling homes with a down payment. The market surged and so the developer went back to the buyers and told them they could pay more than the "guaranteed price" or they could have their deposit back. They sued, and the judge ruled that the developed didn't have to follow the contract.

Ultimately the moral of the story is, those with the gold make the rules.

Re:Written Agreements not mandatory? (1)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576387)

I hope the buyers appealed. It sounds like that judge really fucked them over (or was crooked to begin with). Now that you've captured my interest, I can't help but wonder why the judge ruled that way.

Re:Written Agreements not mandatory? (4, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576491)

They sued, and the judge ruled that the developed didn't have to follow the contract.

Can you maybe site some sources? A news article?

A contract is a contract. It is possible that the purchase contract stated that a X% change in the market allows backing out of the contract. Or that the buyers get the "option" at the contractor's discretion. I am guessing that buyer got screwed over by the small print that they did not read.

Re:Written Agreements not mandatory? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575997)

A written contract is required for real estate or if the contract cannot be performed within 1 year.

Re:Written Agreements not mandatory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576255)

You are sort of right. What you are referring to is the Statute of Frauds which says an agreement for the purchase of goods over $500 requires a written instrument. There are other times a written instrument is required but that's the closest one for this set of circumstances. However, I do not believe IP rights are covered by the term "goods" in the statute so it wouldn't apply.

Siegel's heirs are not producing anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575743)

Siegel's heirs are rent seeking. They are not writing or financing new superman properties. They have never taken part (have they?).

So should they be allowed to continue this rent seeking behaviour?

Re:Siegel's heirs are not producing anything (1)

afxgrin (208686) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575937)

I'd rather they do it than Warner Brothers. Please, multibillion dollar corporation vs. 1 family who makes money off grandpa's comic book. WB can fuck off and pay them to use it, it's likely a paltry amount compared to the investment of the movie itself.

Re:Siegel's heirs are not producing anything (4, Informative)

JDAustin (468180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575989)

DC Comics did pay them...several times over. This is the third time that the heirs went after DC (and Warners) and signed a "final" agreement. In fact, back in the mid or late 40's, DC paid both of them $50k each to settle.

On thing not mentioned here is the reason why this turned into a court case is the lawyer on Siegel's side. Had the Siegel's won, the lawyer would have actually become the controlling party of Superman, not the Siegel's.

Re:Siegel's heirs are not producing anything (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576823)

On thing not mentioned here is the reason why this turned into a court case is the lawyer on Siegel's side. Had the Siegel's won, the lawyer would have actually become the controlling party of Superman, not the Siegel's.

Wait, what? Why was it set up that way?

Did Warner pay? (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575747)

I guess when offering Warner their 50%, this was against compensation.

If Warner paid and the heirs accepted the money (or whatever the compensation consisted of), I don't see how they could then claim to still have any rights. If you want to keep something, don't sell it.

If they asked for compensation and Warner didn't pay anything, I can't see how they could own the rights.

And if the heirs didn't demand compensation for transferring their rights, well, they just pay the price for their stupidity.

Re:Did Warner pay? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575761)

I just noted that I was a bit ambiguous: In the second "If" sentence (i.e. the third paragraph"), the second "they" of course refers to Warner, not to the heirs.

Re:Did Warner pay? (1)

StormReaver (59959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575883)

And if the heirs didn't demand compensation for transferring their rights, well, they just pay the price for their stupidity.

I know it goes against Slashdot standards, but a lot of pointless, wasteful speculation could be avoided by all if people would read the stories before engaging their knee jerks.

Yes, all important questions are answered in the story.

Re:Did Warner pay? (1)

Leuf (918654) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576413)

The important question TFA didn't answer for me is what happened in between the letter and a reasonable time period afterwards when the contract would have been finalized?

Up in the sky! (1)

phrostie (121428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575763)

Up in the sky!
it's a bird!
it's a plane!
No it's WarnerMan!

Making the world a safer place for Large Media Conglomerates everywhere!

Man of Steel? (0)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575797)

So, the man of steel has become stolen by "the man"...

Re:Man of Steel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576359)

Of the suit?

Not quite 100% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575831)

http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/drawn-together

Re:Not quite 100% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575889)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNSzP8KRlRU

Copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575887)

Copyright isn't forever, its infinity minus one day...

Re:Copyright (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576835)

Come on now, it's not that long. It's only Mickey Mouse's age + 1.

validity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576145)

My question is if all the family members agreed. The problem with an unofficial letter is that a family member could write it in the name of the family without actual authority to do so disenfranchising those that disagree. That's why it's so important that it be official. The judge should have tossed it if it was just a personal letter without any other proof of common agreement.

WB lost on the deal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576203)

Seriously, Superman is no longer as popular as it used to be. As a whole, the entire DC universe is the same way with the exception of Batman. Even then Marvel movies have done a hell of a lot better than DC. That is because people have and always will prefer Marvel over DC, Marvel has a more realistic approach when it comes to character development than DC. Superman was once a hit now he is nothing more than "Super-huh?"

Grimly Amusing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576355)

" ...the families of both creators have been paid in excess of $4m since 1978." So each "family" has received $2 million over the past 35 years? That comes out to a little over $57k a year. Meanwhile, movie grosses alone for the same time period were claimed to be $500 million. So the creators got less than 1% between the two of them, and we're not even talking merchandising. Fuck you, Warner Brothers.

Re:Grimly Amusing (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576677)

The problem is for the families of the original creators that they evidently structured a deal based on getting paid right now rather than some kind of residuals deal. A residuals deal might have turned out badly - if the movies flopped - and wouldn't have been instant cash either. But, if the studio made $500 million they could have gotten a much bigger chunk.

Studios, and just about everyone else in the businss world, hates risk. Let's say you develop a game and want to sell it to EA and they want to buy it. They (internally and secretly) think they can make $50 million selling it. You want $1 million and know you can't sell it retail and get anything like that. EA could easily come back and offer you $50K up front with them assuming the risk that it might flop as a retail game. Now, if you are pretty confident you don't take that deal and say you want 10% from net profits for five years and nothing up front. If they take it, you get nothing right away and in six months the game starts selling. If you guessed right and EA does make $50 million selling the game you get $5 million in the end - but again, you get nothing up front. If the game flops, well, you were sharing the risk with EA and that's how the ball bounces.

So you can have some guaranteed money or you can have a share in the risk. Sharing the risk gets you more money, sometimes a lot more money.

Based on the history of Superman - some flops, some big money - I'd say the creators negotiated badly and wanted the studio to take all the risk. What they got was a tiny cut but it was probably all up front and no risk at all. They should have had more confidence in their product and what the studio was going to do with it. Of course, they might have ended up with nothing that way - so maybe at that time getting a sure thing seemed the better choice.

Re:Grimly Amusing (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576785)

If the tables were turned we'd just be saying "Fuck you, Schusters!" It'd be tough to justify paying these people hundreds of millions of dollars for something their dead grandfather created, and to which they'd contributed no work or creative input to in decades.

We have an historical example of a media franchise owned solely by the original creator, it's called Star Wars, and the results have been rather mixed.

wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576401)

The title says it all.

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