Comics / Spotlight

Superman – More Copyrights Stupidity


By Hervé St-Louis
Aug 13, 2009 - 23:06

supermanbaby.jpg


The Siegel family was awarded the copyrights to more Superman elements featured in Action Comics #1 such as depictions of Superman's origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-El and Lora, Superman as the infant Kal-El, the launching of the infant Superman into space by his parents as Krypton explodes and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash. In 2008, the same court federal court awarded the Siegel family Superman’s character, including his costume, his alter-ego as reporter Clark Kent, reporter Lois Lane, their jobs at the Daily Planet newspaper working for a gruff editor, and the love triangle among Clark/Superman and Lois.  In 2013, the estate of Joe Shuster, who left no direct heir, such as wife or kids, will inherit the other half of the copyrights to Superman awarded to Siegel estate today. DC Comics will retain copyrights over Superman's ability to fly, the term kryptonite, the Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen characters, Superman's powers and expanded origins.

The federal court in this writer’s view operated a Solomon’s judgement where he split the baby, not in two but in three. A Superman without the ability to fly, for the Shusters and the Siegels is useless. A Superman that’s not a Moses analog from the planet Krypton, for DC Comics, is equally ridiculous. Moreover, the estate of the Shuster and Siegel will have to agree on every decision concerning Superman, and possibly reach agreements with DC Comics. Essentially, to afford Superman’s creators extended rights over a character they created in 1939, the character, has been rendered unusable except by legal dictum and an army of lawyers pocketing tons of money for each negotiation, whether that leads to a decisive decision on the future of the character.

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I’ve never witnessed a baby being split before, so this is how it must look like when Solomon renders a judgement. Hum, my legal Spider-sense says I should stop mentioning the word Solomon in this article, or it might awaken the greed of some of Captain Marvel’s creator, Otto Binder’s estate.  From the information gathered, it’s not clear if the trademark to the name Superman has been changed by this judgement. Copyrights and trademarks are not the same thing. The copyrights are the contents, the creative elements. The trademark is the right for the owner to use the name “Superman” on products.

Companies like DC Comics and Warner Brothers have for years lobbied Congress to extend copyrights past the 14 years during the life of the creator that was the norm over a century ago. They’ve effectively pushed copyrights past the 50 years mark that is accepted in much of the world. Had they left that issue alone, ignoring their greed, they would not have awakened the greed of Superman’s creators’ estates. Shuster didn’t even have a wife or children, yet someone will benefit from all this money, and that won’t be Superman’s fans. Hopefully, Warner  Brothers and DC Comics’ defeat today, will inspire other greedy copyrights holding companies like Disney to change their views on the indefinite extension of copyrights in the United States and just release the contents to the commons as the initial spirit of the copyrights laws of America suggested. Moral copyrights holders were never meant to possess copyrights past their own death. In fact copyrights were awarded for about seven years originally.

Thank you Mr. Federal Justice for playing King Solomon and ripping apart the baby in three. Now will Superman’s spiritual mother please come forward and let go of her shreds of Superman to the other alleged father/mother, so the baby is salvageable for the people that really care for the characters, the comic book readers that have made the Siegels, the Shusters, DC Comics and Warner Brothers rich? Do any of them even care about Superman's fans?


Last Updated: Jul 26, 2014 - 12:10
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Supermerchandising
I agree and disagree. You are correct when you say that Superman is useless when divided in such a bizarro way. That's the problem with communal property. No one knows who owns what. Like a sandwich with multiple owners, no one can agree on how to divide it or who gets to eat it before it goes stale. It really is not fair for the fans.
I disagree with your views on intellectual properties. Just as a songwriter has the exclusive right to benefit financially from a song, so too does the creator of a fictional character. It's complicated in this case because so much time has passed and there are not always obvious legal heirs.
Just because something, like Superman, is universally recognized and loved doesn't mean everyone can claim ownership and make money from it.
#1 - Ryan - 09/09/2009 - 16:54

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