The Man of Steel could be staying with Warner Brothers for the foreseeable future thanks to a judge’s ruling yesterday.
A federal judge ruled in favor of the studio in a copyright stake case. The judge granted the studio’s motion for summary judgment on the question of whether a 1992 agreement with Jean Peavy, the sister of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, precludes the estate’s attempt to terminate a copyright grant. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright comes four years after another federal judge in California confirmed the validity of a termination notice from the estate of the other co-creator, Jerry Siegel. The termination attempts have threatened Warners’ hold on its lucrative Superman franchise.
The judge ruled “that the 1992 Agreement, which represented the Shuster heirs’ opportunity to renegotiate the prior grants of Joe Shuster’s copyrights, superseded and replaced all prior grants of the Superman copyrights. The 1992 Agreement thus represents the parties’ operative agreement and, as a post-1978 grant, it is not subject to termination.”
Because Warner Bros. is in the middle of production on next summer’s big-budget Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, the studio likely will take tremendous comfort in the latest ruling. It comes after years of nasty litigation with Marc Toberoff, the attorney for the estates.
“We respectfully disagree with its factual and legal conclusions, and it is surprising given that the judge appeared to emphatically agree with our position at the summary judgment hearing,” Toberoff says in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.