Monday, May 17, 2010

WB v. Superman's Lawyer

I doubt that I would have been contacted by the Siegel & Shuster families when my article "Truth Justice & the American Way" appeared in L.A. Lawyer Magazine in 1996 if some of the allegations in the law suit against Marc Toberoff are true. There are things in the opening paragraphs of the complaint, which you can read here, that don't sound like what I learned when I was doing my research for the article or the law school paper that preceded it in 1992.

It will be very chilling if lawyers can be sued personally for taking on a legitimate case (which the Siegels did have for the renewal rights.) And I find it annoying that the complaint waxes eloquently about how well DC Comics/WB took care of the Siegels and Shusters when anyone in the comic book industry can tell tales to the contrary for a huge part of the 70 plus years of Superman's existence. Paul Levitz did a lot to improve the financial position of many of the older, pre-equity creators, but there were a lot of years before he ran the company.

And, contrary to the allegations in the complaints, Siegel and Shuster used every legal opportunity they had to attempt to regain control of the Superman empire. The various suits are a matter of public record. Both Siegel and Shuster died before the window for reclaiming works created under the 1909 Copyright Act which was written into the 1976 Copyright Act opened. That opportunity was described in a side-bar in my article. The Siegel heirs (widow and daughter and grandchildren) had that right. The complaint correctly notes that Joe Shuster left neither widow nor offspring, so I don't know what was done to include the Shuster heirs (sister and nephew, I think) in the matter.

I will certainly be watching this closely. Mr. Toberoff, I hear, is also representing the family of Jack Kirby against Marvel, and some of those properties have a direct bearing on my husband's Marvel creations.

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