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After the decades of headache over who created Superman and Superboy, who currently owns the character outright, and who owes whom how much money, the latest court decision between the Siegel estate, DC and Warner Bros. Entertainment, should embolden the conglomerate to move forward with other Superman related projects.  The latest suit between the parties had the Siegel estate arguing that DC gave Warner Bros. a “sweetheart deal” in licensing the Superman character for Superman Returns and the Smallville series, resulting in the family getting less money than they believe they should have.

For those who haven’t been following the multiple lawsuits surrounding Superman, the Siegel’s currently own one-half of the Superman property, and thus are entitled to one half of any licensing money that DC brings in on the property. Unfortunately, the Honorable Stephen G. Larson didn’t see it the same way, and ruled in favor of Warner Bros. and DC saying that even though the money DC received for the licensing rights for Superman Returns was on the low side, it wasn’t unreasonably low.

DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment are very gratified by the court’s thorough and well-reasoned decision in this matter. The decision validates what DC and Warner Bros. have maintained from the beginning, which is that when they do business with each other, they always strive for – and achieve – fair market value in their transactions. We are very pleased that the court found there was no merit to plaintiffs’ position that the Superman deals were unfair to DC Comics and, by extension, the plaintiffs.

It is a tricky case to be sure, and sometimes there are instances where the subsidiary of one company gets or gives a better deal because of the financial relationship. I have seen it hands on with magazine advertising, so the Siegel estate did have the right to move forward with suit.

While the Siegels may not be getting any more money from these particular deals, there seems to be some concern on the judge’s part that the Siegels may be able to file another lawsuit over the film reversion rights. Seems Warner Bros. has the exclusive right to develop the Superman property for other films so long as DC retains copyright ownership. This means Warner Bros. has no fear of the film rights reverting back to DC after a set period of time, meaning the company can take its time in developing a new film. No new Superman films being made at the moment, means the Siegel estate can’t get more money. This clearly isn’t the end of the Siegel/DC/Warner Bros. lawsuits, and we’ll try to keep it sorted out as new ones pop up.

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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2 Comments

  1. Jeff
    July 9, 2009 at 11:02 am — Reply

    Superman sucks. Bring on the Captain Marvel movies and merchandise, please.

  2. websnap
    July 9, 2009 at 11:27 am — Reply

    The deal between DC and Warner isn’t just bad for the Siegels, but bad for any fans of the DC characters who are hoping to see them on the big screen. Because Warner wants their name on any of the DC Property’s films fewer are made due to the nature of the business. Warner Bros. releases 18-22 films per year ranging from blockbusters to sleeper hits, and don’t want to compete against their own properties for Box office openings, one studio overseeing one publishing company’s stable of assets pretty much insures a low frequency of DC releases. Especially since creating films based on DC properties in not Warner’s main objective. Marvel was smart to license out properties to other Film houses to insure production of their major brands, though, arguably, ranging in both critical and financial success – still made the movie going public familiar with names like Deadpool, Nightcrawler, and Daredevil. Most people who have never picked up a comic book won’t really know who or what a Green Lantern is. That’s Warner’s fault. And keeping them in one “place” doesn’t equal quality control either, one wouldn’t need to look further than Superman Returns, Catwoman and the last two Pre-Begins Batman titles.

    Warner at the very least should open up a “film house” label, or a “Warner Bros. Entertainment Company” strictly for DC/Vertigo titles if they insist on going about it on their own. This way the money that DC movies make go back to creating more titles, instead of allocating for other films. It’s also the only way we will ever really get a JLA film, one I’m sure the Siegels would love to get made.

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