21st aug, 2009

Superheroes have rights too

A lot of superhero characters are surrounded by a history of lawsuits, mainly because the creators traditionally have had their rights taken away by the publishers.

One of the most litigated superheroes is Superman. Lawsuits on royalties and copyright ownership have taken place in 1947, 1979 and 2008. The latest chapter of the lawsuits was closed this August where the District Court decided that the heirs of Jerry Seigel have co-ownership of the copyright of Superman’s early history.

The effect of the decision is that in 2013 the copyright of the early characters and Superman’s basic origin will return to the creators heirs. This in turn creates a very complex legal situation since DC will own some parts of the Superman character and Siegels heirs others. As always I love the American way of writing court opinions. This is a great example of why court opinions can be read like literature “When the Court last left Superman, the copyright in the earliest published version of the character, as depicted in the comic book Action Comics No. 1, had been reunited with the heirs of one of his creators, Jerome Siegel…Like the arc of a comic book serial, there has been an unfolding of evidence regarding the creation and subsequent publication of Superman.”. You can’t help but read on!

Another example of Superhero lawsuit is Stan Lees lawsuit in 2005

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