Judge Otis Wright III of U.S. District Court says that the Superman rights case, where the heirs of Jerry Siegel sought further rights and royalties from Warner Brothers and DC Comics, is over.
In court April 18, 2013, Wright ruled that “The Court holds that the 2001 settlement agreement between DC and the Siegels re-granted the Siegels’ Superman, Superboy, and a Superman advertisements that ran in the 1930s to DC in return for substantial advances and royalties,” and that the motion of DC/WB to end these litigations is granted.
This confirms the January Court of Appeals ruling that essentially gives DC and Warner Bros full ownership of Superman and related properties including the younger – and much contested – version, Superboy.
The Superboy aspect of the case dates all the way back to 1943, when a five-page Superboy story was printed while Jerry Siegel, who contended he had pitched such a story, was in the Army deployed in service of WWII. After litigation, he and co-creator Joe Shuster were paid $94,000 “to end all claims.” Adjusted for inflation to today’s rates, that’s the equivalent of approximately $884,000.
After DC’s multiple copyright extenstions on Superman and Superboy, a copyright termination notice from the Siegel estate was provided in 1997 (note that Jerry Siegel had passed the year prior in 1996). Warner Bros fought the notice, and seemed to settle with the heirs in 2001, the agreement that has now been upheld by two courts in the past three months. The Siegel estate continued to fight, winning Superboy’s copyright in 2006, and the full copyright to “Superman material first published in 1938,” though not the property as a whole. Those rulings are overruled by yesterday’s and the ruling in January.
During the heat of the Superboy battle, DC Comics killed off their then-current Superboy character, and distanced themselves from the character. He returned a few years later, and DC launched a Superboy ongoing series once more in their September 2011 DC New 52 relaunch, where they rebooted their entire line of superhero comics with new first issues and revamped origins. A character named Superboy also appeared on the recently-concluded animated series Young Justice.