Last Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the estate of Jerome Siegel was entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to all things Superman. Siegel created the character with his partner Joseph Shuster in the 1930's before selling the copyright to Detective Comics (which later became DC Comics, now owned by Time Warner) for a whopping $130. Siegel has been fighting to reclaim a portion of the copyright basically ever since, though all he ever won was a $30,000 annuity that stopped in 1999. Now, 11 years after his death, it looks like he's been vindicated, pending an appeal by Time Warner. You can find more details in this New York Times article.

No one seems sure about what specific implications this will have, and I'm no expert on copyright law, but everyone seems to agree on two things: 1) Time Warner may owe the Siegel estate a lot of money from use of the character since 1999, and 2) this may have thrown at least a temporary wrench into Warner's plans for a follow-up to Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Ordinarily, news that legal squabbling is holding up production on a favorite franchise would lead to a lot of cursing from fans who are shocked -- shocked! -- that money and greed would stand in the way of filmmaking. But this time it's a "little guy" who's causing all the trouble, not a faceless corporation, and it seems churlish to complain.

My prediction: Time Warner will pay the Siegels off. There's too much money in Superman for something like this to halt the assembly line for very long.
categories Cinematical