The film and TV future of comic book’s most iconic hero looks to be in doubt now with a landmark decision having been made last week in the ongoing legal battle over copyright of the character of Superman.
Superman creator Jerry Siegel sold the rights to the character to DC comics for $130 back in 1937. Siegel had long planned to redress the fact he had gotten so little from his creation – but died in 1996.
In 1999 his heirs terminated the earlier copyright arrangement under a 1976 law, and now a federal judge ruled last week that they were entitled to claim a share of the U.S. copyright to the character.
What does this mean on the bottom line? Well Warners is expect to appeal of course so nothing for the moment. If that fails though, the studio may owe the Siegels a significant profit share of any domestic revenue generated by the Superman property from 1999 onwards
– namely the $200 million in U.S. box-office generated by 2006’s “Superman Returns”. It also means that rights to the characters may revert to the Siegels in 2013.
This of course puts a crimp in the plans of not only the studio’s planned “Superman” sequels, but their planned “Justice League” film franchise as well. Warners had already shown reluctance on pressing forward with another “Superman” sequel after the modest earnings and muted critical reaction to their attempted ‘restart’ in 2006. This ruling means the project could be pushed further onto the back burner.
There’s still a lot more fallout to come from this, and nothing is set in stone yet, so sI’ll let you know as it comes in.