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DC Appeals Siegel Ownership of Half of Superman Rights

Having seemingly secured the rights to Joe Shuster’s half of the rights to Superman, DC Comics and parent company Time Warner’s never-ending battle over collaborator Jerry Siegel’s share of the rights continued yesterday as the case went before a Federal Appeals Court.Arguments were heard by a California Appeals Court in Pasadena, CA, yesterday over whether or not Laura Siegel Larson — Siegel’s daughter — has the right to terminate her family’s share of Time Warner and DC’s existing copyright to the Superman character as ruled by a Californian court in 2008. Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer working for DC, argued that the 1938 copyright that would be terminated under existing US copyright law is actually invalid due to a 2006 agreement between Joanne Siegel, Larson’s mother (and Jerry’s wife), and DC from 2006. “At the very minimum, we believe we’re entitled to a trial,” Petrocelli told the court, going on to say that, should the Appeals Court agree that the 2006 agreement supersedes the 1938 agreement — or the 1947 post-lawsuit agreement, or the 1973-1975 lawsuit and subsequent agreements — between DC and Siegel, it would “dispose of the entire dispute.”

Marc Toberoff, the attorney working for Larson, is familiar with this argument, as he has recently lost a lawsuit for the Shuster half of the rights to DC on very similar grounds (In that case, a 1992 agreement between DC and Shuster’s sister invalidated any future claim to the rights, it was ruled last month). He argued that the 2006 agreement was itself invalid as DC/Warners changed the royalty terms after the fact, something that Judge Sidney Thomas seemed unconvinced about yesterday; he reportedly asked Toberoff “If there’s a legitimate offer on the 16th [of October, 2006] and the acceptance on the 19th, does it really matter what happens afterward? This suggests there’s probably a genuine issue of material fact.”

No ruling was handed down from the three judge Appeals Court yesterday. Keep looking up, in the sky, for developments.

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