A new U.S. District Judge ruling is keeping Superman with Warner Bros. and DC Comics, and for now, prevents the Joseph Shuster heirs from reclaiming any rights to the iconic comic book character.
U.S. District Judge Otis Wright has stated that a 1992 agreement signed between Joe Shuster’s sister, Jean Peavy and her brother Frank supersedes the current lawsuit. In the 1992 agreement, DC Comics agreed to cover all of Joseph Shuster’s debts and to pay Jean Peavy $25,000 for the rest of her life. In exchange for signing the agreement, the heirs would fully resolve any past, present, or future claims against DC. This is a big win for Warner Bros. who now don’t need permission from the heirs to continue to produce Superman comics. And in a way, it is still a win for Peavy who continues to receive $25,000 a year for the rest of her life. In the case of the Siegel heirs, they did win a victory in 2009 to reclaim early Superman works, and they continue to receive a significant amount of money from returns on the property.
Of course this means Marc Toberoff, who is representing the Shuster side of the argument will appeal the case to a higher authority.
What really strikes me as a real problem with the current Copyright Act is that it allows anyone related to a creator to reclaim copyrights to works released prior to 1992. Previously, the rights could only be handed down to the spouse, child, and grandchild. Further, and this is the part has bothered me about this case since the beginning, is that after the Siegel case concluded in 1992, Jean Peavy stated that she was committed to honoring the 1992 agreement she signed with DC Comics, then headed by Paul Levitz. That is also something that stood out to Judge Wright as he commented on that statement in his decision.
This is far from over, Spoilerites!