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OFF BEAT: Court issues victory for Superman in ownership battle


In what assuredly will be welcome news to the residents of Metropolis, a federal appeals court declared this week that Superman is staying right where he is.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that DC Comics Inc., a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., is the rightful owner of the Superman franchise.

The appellate ruling overturns a lower court’s decision in a 2006 lawsuit brought by relatives of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel. The family argued in court that a 2001 agreement between DC Comics and Mr. Siegel’s widow over royalties for various Superman titles and products never was finalized in accordance with California law.

The court agreed and, in doing so, opened the door for the family to reclaim some of publishing and merchandising rights to the Man of Steel under the termination provision of the 1976 Copyright Act.

However, the appellate court noted in its decision that the contents of a 2001 letter from the attorney representing the family in its negotiations with DC Comics suggest that the family had struck an agreement with the comic book publisher. The court concluded that the letter constitutes a finalization of the agreement between the two parties under state law, and reversed the lower court’s ruling.