Another big turnaround in the rights to Superman: on the heels of a 2004 decision that assigned Jermone Siegel's heirs the rights to the Superboy character (upheld in 2006), a judge has now ruled that the Siegel heirs have also owned a share of the copyright on Superman himself since 1999. In terms of things it's nice to discover you still own, the multi-multi-multimillion-dollar rights to Superman has got to be pretty high on the list. And even bigger news for the future of the Superman franchise:
If the ruling survives a Time Warner legal challenge, it may also open the door to a similar reversion of rights to the estate of Mr. Shuster in 2013. That would give heirs of the two creators control over use of their lucrative character until at least 2033 — and perhaps longer, if Congress once again extends copyright terms — according to Marc Toberoff, a lawyer who represents the Siegels and the Shuster estate.Of course, my feeling is that a character created 75 years ago shouldn't still be under copyright at all—but it's certainly nice to see copyright law for once protecting creators rather than corporations (albeit belatedly), particularly creators exploited as badly as Siegel and Shuster were.
“It would be very powerful,” said Mr. Toberoff, speaking by telephone on Friday. “After 2013, Time Warner couldn’t exploit any new Superman-derived works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters.”