A US court has ruled that Warner Bros. can retain the rights to Superman in full, despite the heirs' claim to part of the copyright.
The original artist who created Superman was Joe Shuster, who died in 1992, shortly after DC Comics took over his debts and started paying his family a $25,000 annual income. Apparently, according to the judge, this took away the rights of the Shuster family to reclaim any part of the copyright.
Canadian-born Shuster and American writer Jerry Siegel created Superman 80 years ago, after which the artists sold their creation to Detective Comics Inc. (later known as DC Comics).
US District Judge, Otis Wright wrote in his decision, “The 1992 agreement, which represented the Shuster heirs' opportunity to renegotiate the prior grants of Joe Shuster's copyrights, superseded and replaced all prior grants of the Superman copyrights.”
Shuster's heirs had argued that the copyright agreements could be terminated. Apparently there were provisions that allowed creators of works made before 1978 to reclaim their rights. However, the judge ruled that Shuster's sister's decision to accept higher annual payments took away the pre-1978 rights and created a new agreement.
The Shusters' attorney, Marc Toberoff wrote in a statement, "We respectfully disagree with its factual and legal conclusions, and it is surprising given that the judge appeared to emphatically agree with our position at the summary judgment hearing."
Siegel's daughter. Siegel Larson, said that she "won't be silent any longer about Warner Bros' tactics".
"For over 13 years they have fought us at every turn, in and out of court, aiming to make recovery of the money they owe us so impossibly difficult that we would give up and settle for peanuts," she writes. "In the midst of this sideshow, my mom, the original model for Lois Lane, passed away last year at 93, still determined to keep her promise to my dad. She never got to relax and enjoy any proceeds from the crusade she fought until her dying day."
"I refuse to be bullied or deterred from enforcing my family's rights," she wrote. "What Warner Bros apparently doesn't realize is that despite their tremendous power, I will never give up on my parents' dream of rightfully restoring my father's rights to his family. Would Superman, the embodiment of 'truth, justice and the American way', let Warner Bros, DC Comics, and their gang of attorneys get away with this? Not for an instant!"
It is now expected that the Shuster family will appeal the decision.
Superman has become one of the most popular comic book heroes, with his tight blue, red and yellow costume, with iconic S-shield, and a cape. The character has earned billions of dollars for Warner Bros. with five Superman mans along with television productions and related games, toys and comic books.
Warner Bros. is set to release the latest "Superman" film - "Man of Steel" - in 2013.