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Warner Bros Secures Commercial Control of Superman 196

Posted by samzenpus
from the faster-than-a-speeding-cease-and-desist dept.
AliasMarlowe writes "Warner Bros have won an important legal victory over the heirs of one of the creators of Superman, giving it total commercial control of the superhero. An appeals panel unanimously ruled that Jerome Siegel's heirs must abide by a 2001 letter accepting Warner's offer for their 50% share of Superman. The letter was never formally turned into a contract, but the Judge considered that it represented an oral agreement, which was binding. Warner Brothers now owns 100% of the Superman franchise."
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Warner Bros Secures Commercial Control of Superman

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  • Re:Public domain (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jetra (2622687) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:10PM (#42575673)
    Same reason Mickey Mouse isn't public domain yet. Copyright gets an extension when it nears the end.
  • by cdecoro (882384) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:15PM (#42575707)

    No; the character would continue to be protected by trademark rights. The name "Superman", the S logo, etc. are all indicators that a particular work that bears them originate from the "actual" owner of the marks; i.e., they are trademarks. And trademark is indefinite, so long as they continue in use. But that is how it should be: not just every movie studio should be able to make a Superman movie, because this would undermine the "real"/canonical Superman line. Fans could not be sure that the movie that they were going to see was the "official" Superman; the protection of trademark is therefore important to provide information to the consumer.

    Now, that said, I agree that copyright's derivative work protection should not continue to prevent similar stories, so long as there is no risk of customer confusion. If another studio wants to make a movie about "Superduperman," from the planet Argon, who flies around in his caped underwear while saving the world, they should have every right to do so -- even while the copyright for "Superman" still runs.

  • Re:Public domain (Score:5, Informative)

    by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:17PM (#42575719)
    Not always true [cnn.com]

    Once a brand name passes into such common usage that no one regards it as a proper noun anymore, its trademark can be ruled invalid, and anyone can capitalize on all the marketing you've put into it. (That's what happened to "Escalator": The company that owned the name let it become synonymous with moving staircases, and lost the trademark.)

  • Re:Public domain (Score:3, Informative)

    by luke923 (778953) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:17PM (#42575725) Journal

    Copyright law states that a copyright lasts up to 75 years after the author's death. Supes has got a while.

  • Re:Public domain (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nemyst (1383049) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:27PM (#42575791) Homepage

    And at author's death + 69 years, a new law is passed to extend copyright to author's death + 140 years.

  • Re:Public domain (Score:5, Informative)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:45PM (#42575931)

    Mickey Mouse will never be public domain... The Mouse is used all over Disney every day as a trademark.

    The specific WORKS would be public domain... So copy them all day, post on the Internets. Trying to make NEW works would be difficult because Disney is still using that character.

  • by JDAustin (468180) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:59PM (#42575989)

    DC Comics did pay them...several times over. This is the third time that the heirs went after DC (and Warners) and signed a "final" agreement. In fact, back in the mid or late 40's, DC paid both of them $50k each to settle.

    On thing not mentioned here is the reason why this turned into a court case is the lawyer on Siegel's side. Had the Siegel's won, the lawyer would have actually become the controlling party of Superman, not the Siegel's.

  • Re:Public domain (Score:4, Informative)

    by fatphil (181876) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:32PM (#42576211) Homepage
    Superman wasn't even novel coinage anyway. It's equivalent to Uebermensch, which was in German decades earlier, at least by the time of Nietzsche, who used it.
  • Re:Public domain (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ironhandx (1762146) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:21PM (#42576549)

    Nothing of Mickey Mouse is in the public domain. The common joke is that copyright length is MIckey Mouse's birthday + 1.

    No work from after 1923 will enter the public domain until 2019 unless its creator specifically puts it there.

    Its complete fucking horse shit and that particular amendment should be unanimously voted off the books.

    Unfortunately there are far too many politicians in the pockets of the big conglomerates such as disney for that to ever happen.

    If copyright law had stayed as it was we'd have things right up into the 50's entering the public domain now.

  • Re:Public domain (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:44PM (#42576683)

    "Man and Superman" was a play by George Bernard Shaw, written in 1903.

  • by alexander_686 (957440) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @07:48PM (#42577753)

    First, computers are expensive – or at least the rendering farms that ILM and Pixar uses. Second – and more importantly - CGI is expensive not because of the computers, but because of skilled artists.

    And when we no longer need real actors – what do we have? Films generated by optimized algorithms – never having been touched by human hands?

    I think it is going to be a very long time before computers supplement humans and garages can push out the majors. Look, I am amazed at what small indies can do now. Monsters is a great example – made for 800k http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1470827/ [imdb.com] Small shops can do an excellent level of quality if they narrowly focus their work.

    Let’s say you wanted to do your own version of LotR can you tell computer to drop in 10,000 Orcs? Maybe – if you were going to use the generic Orc. But you probably wouldn’t want to do that – too much like paint by numbers – it would have the look and feel of the dozens of other fan flicks out there. And that is just one detail of thousands.

    Blockbusters are going to want to fashion their own unique style which for the foreseeable future will take a lot of talented (and very expensive artists)

  • Re:Licensing (Score:4, Informative)

    by alexander_686 (957440) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:48PM (#42578049)

    If you want to see what happens when you do that all you have to do is jump across the pond to England. IIRC, the copyright defaults to creator. Each time a new writer introduces a new character rights get muddled. Terry Nation was for year able to keep Dalek’s off of Doctor Who until he got his fair share. This makes shared universe difficult. One can’t just grab a minor character in the Hulk – like Wolverine - and transfer them to the X-Men under a different writer.

    And I am not saying your idea is a bad one – just that it would impacts. You just don’t see the big universe with multiple creators over there.

    Neil Gaiman has done some good writing on the copyright dispute with Miracle Man. Check out his blog.

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