Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, March 29, 2021

In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got $130 (roughly $1,800 in today’s dollars, per this historical inflation calculator) in exchange for selling all rights to a little character by the name of Superman.

Seventy years later, their heirs have legally reclaimed part of the copyright to the world’s more famous (and marketable) superhero, potentially complicating Time Warner’s use of the character in films and other media.

Compensation to the Siegels would be limited to any work created after their 1999 termination date. Income from the 1978 “Superman” film, or the three sequels that followed in the 1980s, are not at issue. But a “Superman Returns” sequel being planned with the filmmaker Bryan Singer (who has also directed “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men”) might require payments to the Siegels, should they prevail in a demand that the studio’s income, not just that of the comics unit, be subject to a court-ordered accounting.

What this recounting fails to mention: If the ruling stands, it opens a can of worms. Practically every iconic comics and pop-culture character is probably covered under this precedent: Batman, Spider-Man, Bugs Bunny and hundreds others. The intellectual property held by companies like Time Warner are consistently undervalued; a flood of legal claims not only would rightfully revert rights back to the creators and their families, it might also bring to light just how much money their creations bring to corporate bottom-lines.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/29/2008 04:26:03 PM
Category: Business, Pop Culture, Publishing
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