Superman - Joe Shuster's 50% Belongs To...DC Comics!

You've read the headline right.  The judge hearing the DC Comics vs Marc Toberoff case has issued an order, which states that Joe Shuster's 50% share of Superman belongs to DC Comics, and has belonged to DC Comics since Joe passed away in 1992.  This means that, unless the order is overturned on appeal, lawyer Marc Toberoff cannot claim a controlling interest in Superman and all of his contracts with the Shuster heirs are worth about as much as the paper they're printed on.  It also means that, as you'll soon read, "...between November 10, 2003 (when the Notice was served) and October 26, 2013 (its effective date), DC was and is the only party that may enter into an agreement with the Shuster heirs regarding the Superman rights sought to be recaptured."  Thus, if the Shuster heirs wish to capitalise on their half of Superman, they have to deal with DC, as they did when Joe passed away.

This order has come about due to a series of letters and agreements that Frank Shuster and Joe's sister Jean signed in 1992.  These agreements saw the Shuster heirs paid a pension (again, nowhere near as much as they should have gotten) in return for forgoing their right to file for the copyright.  Toberoff recently argued before the court that these agreements were invalid as DC already owned the Shuster half of Superman when Joe Shuster died.  As Joe's estate was not probated until 2003, his share in Superman did not belong to Joe's brother and sister, and any payments that were being made were out of the goodness of their own hearts.  Once the estate was probated (with Toberoff's involvement), the Shuster heirs could make a claim on Joe's 50% and the heirs could file for copyright termination - or so Toberoff argued.  The court disagreed with this line and has ruled as it sees fit What now remains is the issue of Toberoff's dealings with Joanne and Laura Siegel - if the court decides that those deals aren't valid then it will mean that Laura Siegel will also have to deal with DC Comics, something that she's indicated she's not willing to do.  There'll be plenty of people who will say this is a dark day for creators rights, and they may well have a point, but this battle isn't over yet.  But, for now, DC Comics are holding a strong hand, plus it kind of dents Toberoff's claims, especially as he likes to promote himself as a person who has never lost such a fight - first the Jack Kirby Marvel case, and now this.  Interesting times ahead...

  On another note, The Trials Of Superman Vol II has been fully updated with the most recent round of depositions, and when I say recent, I mean recent - depositions done in September 2012 are now in the revised edition.  If you've not checked it out yet, this might well be the time.


mr ed said…
It's correct that with the whole of Shuster's 50% now owned by DC (pending appeal) Marc Toberoff can never own a controling interest in Superman. Logic would dictate Toberoff will now walk away from the case. It's simple math. If Toberoff owned half of the Shuster percentage and half of the Siegel/Larson percentage he would have held a 50% share while S&S would have 25% each.
That still is better than Time Warner owning the whole pie though.
I've yet to see anyone explain how Toberoff controlling Superman with the heirs owning a share is the same as Time Warner owning 100% of Superman. It isn't only half a loaf which is better than none, one slice is better than none as well.
Daniel Best said…
Under the terms of the contracts, Toberoff would own 45% of Superman - 25% of the Shuster half and 20% of the Siegel half (they signed a better deal). That would give him the controlling interest.

As for why it could be better or worse, have a poke about this blog and see some of the things that Toberoff has done in the past in his quest to control the copyright. It's not always a pretty thing.
mr ed said…
Right so the heirs would own a percentage of Superman. More of each of their shares than Toberoff would own, but less than the combined total of Toberoff's shares. No matter how you look at it, that's still a far better deal for them than Time Warner owning 100% of Superman.
Toberoff owning the controlling interest with the heirs owning the remaining percentage is obviously a better deal for them.
Daniel Best said…
At the moment DC only own 50% - the Siegels succesfully captured their 50% back in the late 1990s, well before Toberoff came onto the scene.
mr ed said…
Dan, Would you be kind enough to show everyone exactly where (a news story or legal document) the Siegel heirs were awarded 50% of Superman?
Here's the standard story from Wiki. Now it may not be accurate, and if it isn't please correct it.
On April 16, 1999, Siegel's widow Joanne Siegel, and their daughter, Laura Siegel Larson, filed a copyright termination notice.[16] Warner Bros. contested this copyright termination, making the status of Siegel's share of the copyright the subject of a legal battle. Warner Bros. and the Siegels entered into discussions on how to resolve the issues raised by the termination notice, but these discussions were set aside by the Siegels and in October 2004 they filed suit alleging copyright infringement on the part of Warner Bros. Warner Bros. countersued, alleging, among other arguments, that the termination notice contains defects.[18][19] On March 26, 2008, Judge Stephen G. Larson of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Siegel's estate was entitled to claim a share in the United States copyright.[20] The ruling does not affect the international rights which Time Warner holds in the character through its subsidiary DC Comics. Issues regarding the amount of monies owed Siegel's estate and whether the claim the estate has extends to derivative works such as movie versions will be settled at trial, although any compensation would only be owed from works published since 1999.[21] The case was scheduled to be heard in a California federal court in May 2008.[22]

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