Although Warners Bro. still has months of appellate court appearances ahead of them, the mega studio has received good news that places them at an advantage in the ongoing battle with Superman co-creator, Joe Shuster’s estate. Earlier today the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voted not to hold a rehearing in a dispute that challenged Warner Bros.’ rights to the Superman franchise. However, contrary to many surfacing reports, this victory is not necessarily the end of the lawsuit.
The rights to the Superman franchise have been the subject of legal squabbles since the late 1930’s. During the 1990’s, the heirs of the both Superman creators, Shuster and Siegel, attempted to exploit a provision of the Copyright Act that allows a copyright grant to be terminated. In that instance, the 9th Circuit eventually concluded that deals made by the creators’ heirs precluded the estates’ termination attempts.
In 1992, an agreement was made by Shuster’s sister that paid Shuster’s final debts and increased survivor benefits in exchange for relinquishing future claims against DC. It was not until the fall of 2012 when the 9th Circuit concluded that Shuster’s heirs were aware of their potential termination rights at the time they entered into the 1992 Agreement, thus declaring the agreement was valid.
Today, the appellate circuit confirmed they would not readdress the validity of the aforementioned agreement. But Warner Bros cannot celebrate a win just yet… the Siegels are pursuing an anticipatory repudiation claim.