On the 75th anniversary today of Superman’s debut, Warner Bros got some more good news about the Man of Steel. The last elements of WB and its subsidiary DC Comics legal issues with the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel effectively came to an end Thursday with a US District Court ruling on the rights to Superboy and some Superman ads. “The Court holds that the 2001 settlement agreement between DC and the Siegels re-granted the Siegels’ Superman, Superboy, and a Superman advertisements that ran in the 1930s to DC in return for substantial advances and royalties,” wrote Judge Otis Wright III today (read it here). “The remainder of Defendants’ Motion is therefore Granted and this litigation of superhero proportions now draws to a close,” the federal judge added in not uncharacteristic fashion.
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Man Of Steel’ Read More »
Warner Bros may have won the larger legal war over who owns the rights to Superman but they seem to be losing their battle against the lawyer who sought to retain the copyright for the heirs of the hero’s creators. Today attorney Marc Toberoff was freed from paying attorney fees for the case (read order here) and had two tortious interference claims against him knocked out by a U.S. District judge (read order here). The court denied WB and its subsidiary DC Comics the $500,000 in attorney’s fees that they wanted as a pound of flesh from Toberoff for the long running case. And Judge Otis Wright made it very clear he believed the action by WB and DC was personal against the lawyer who represented the estates of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. “What is surprising is DC’s motivation in seeking attorneys’ fees solely against one Defendant. DC’s entire Motion smacks of animus toward Toberoff,” wrote the judge in today’s order. “Punishing Toberoff and Pacific Pictures with a $500,000 attorneys’-fees award would send a clear message to copyright defendants that litigating a claim with good-faith supported defenses is wrong. That is undoubtedly not a message this Court wants to send to Toberoff or others,” he added in the 12-page order.
Related: ‘Superman Rights Belong To Warner Bros, Court Asserts
Read More »
Warner Bros’ long legal battle with the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel moved closer to a final resolution this week. On Wednesday US District Judge Otis Wright III issued an order (read it here) granting the studio and its subsidiary DC Comics a partial summary judgment in cases brought by Laura Siegel Larson and the estate of Joanne Siegel. The order confirms WB and DC’s long contention that a 2001 agreement with the heirs granted them the rights to the Man from Krypton. In a sense, it is a bit anti-climactic. A January ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2008 ruling that the Siegel heirs still controlled the lucrative rights to Superman and his younger self Superboy because a binding agreement was never reached by the parties in 2001 as WB and DC claim. The studio has been incrementally fighting that ruling over the last four years and getting some real traction in the last several months. In a February filing for summary judgment, WB and DC asked the judge to reconfirm the earlier ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that basically gave them full rights to the superhero character and the freedom to move forward with its Superman big screen reboot Man Of Steel and other related properties without the threat of any more legal action by the creators’ heirs and … Read More »
Attorney Marc Toberoff learned today that he won’t be penalized as DC Comics and Warner Bros desired him to be in their grinding Superman copyright legal battle. In a short but acerbic order (read it here) issued Friday Judge Otis Wright, II denied a motion for sanctions against the Man of Steel heirs’ lawyer by the Warner subsidiary. In a motion first filed last fall and reactivated earlier this year, Warner alleged that Toberoff and his companies suppressed evidence in the discovery process in the long ongoing case. Judge Wright says forget about it. “The Court comes away from this investigation with the view that DC’s Motion for Evidentiary Sanctions is really just a rehashing of the tortured course of discovery in these Superman matters. Now with the benefit of hindsight (and relatively newfound possession of a multitude of documents to which DC may not have been entitled but for the theft of those documents from Toberoff’s office and their subsequent disclosure to Warner Brothers), DC seeks to open a widereaching inquiry into attorney and Defendant Marc Toberoff’s prior privilege assertions and privilege-logging practices,” he wrote Friday.
Related: Lawyer For Superman Heirs Want DC Comics Suit Dismissed
Read More »
Less than a month after scoring a major legal victory in the Superman copyright case, Warner Bros today sought to finish off the suit by the heirs of co-creator Jerry Siegel. “After nearly a decade of litigation, the Siegel Superman and Siegel Superboy cases can now come to an end,” said the motion for summary judgment (read it here) filed Thursday. The studio wants the federal court to assert the January 10 ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that essentially gave Warner Bros full rights to the superhero character and the freedom to move forward with its Superman big screen reboot Man of Steel and other related properties without the threat of further legal action by the creators’ heirs and estates. The ruling last month overturned a 2008 ruling that Laura Siegel Larson and the estate of Joanne Siegel still controlled the lucrative rights to Superman and his younger self Superboy because a binding agreement was never reached by the parties. “In short, these cases are over. Any attempt by Larson to resuscitate them is futile,” the studio and its DC Comics subsidiary said in today’s filing by lawyers Daniel Petrocelli, Matthew Kline and Cassandra Seto. “In both the Superman and Superboy cases, DC’s Fourth Counterclaim seeks a declaration that Larson transferred her Superman and Superboy copyrights to DC pursuant to a 2001 … Read More »
DC Comics waited too long to file its copyright interference suit in the battle over who owns Superman, says the lawyer of the estates of Man of Steel co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In another round in the multi-front fight between Warner Bros and the estates, attorney Marc Toberoff on Monday cited statute of limitation laws and asked the federal court to dismiss (read it here) the suit DC’s corporate owners filed against him almost three years ago. This move comes less than a month after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals essentially handed WB full rights to Superman in a related copyright case — a big deal for the studio, whose reboot Man Of Steel flies into theaters June 14. In its May 14, 2010 suit, DC Comics claimed Toberoff meddled with the 1992 copyright agreement the company had reached with the two estates. It also alleges Toberoff drafted overriding agreements with the estates in 2001 and 2003 to recapture DC’s Superman copyright interests and to position himself and his companies to secure a controlling financial interest in the families’ claims.
Related: Big Superman Legal Win For Warner Bros
Read More »
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal today ruled in Warner Bros.‘ favor in the long standing copyright battle with the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel that there was a binding agreement in 2001 giving the studio full rights to the superhero character. The ruling (read it here) Thursday is basically a green light for Warner Bros. to now move forward with its Superman big screen reboot Man of Steel and other related properties without the specter of further legal action from Laura Siegel Larson and the creators’ other heirs hanging over them like Kryptonite. “Today’s ruling vindicates DC Comics’ long-held position that it entered into a binding agreement with the Jerry Siegel family in 2001. The Court’s decision paves the way for the Siegels finally to receive the compensation they negotiated for and which DC has been prepared to pay for over a decade. We are extremely pleased that Superman’s adventures can continue to be enjoyed across all media platforms worldwide for generations to come,” said Warner Bros in a statement Thursday.
Related: Superman Heirs And Warner Bros Attorneys Swap More Nasty Allegations In Legal Battle
The 9th Circuit’s ruling today admonished a previous lower court decision that denied the claims of Warner Bros-owned DC Comics that they had a deal over … Read More »
The heirs to Superman co-creator Joe Shuster will not be getting back some of the rights to the hero next year as they wanted. A judge said today that an agreement the estate signed 20 years ago with DC Comics rules out any effort by his heirs to terminate the copyright granted to the Warner Bros-owned company. The order granting partial summary judgment (read it here) comes in response to a motion from DC Comics. “The Court finds 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,” wrote District judge Otis Wright III today. DC’s motion is based on their 2010 claim to stop the Shuster heirs taking back rights to some early Superman works on October 26, 2013. In 2008, the estate of the other Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel recaptured half of the original Superman rights through the courts. ”The order for the most part is the tentative order issued over six weeks ago before oral argument. 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 actual summary judgment hearing,” says defendants’ lawyer Marc Toberoff. Warner Bros had no comment … Read More »
The long ongoing copyright case over who owns the rights to Superman just got very personal. Attorneys for Warner Bros (which owns DC Comics) late Wednesday night claimed Superman heirs attorney Marc Toberoff has “systematically suppressed relevant evidence” and filed a motion (read it here) against the lawyer and the estates of the superhero’s co-creators. The filing seeks terminating sanctions and an evidentiary hearing for November 12. But this morning, Deadline was given a letter (original here) in response from Laura Siegel Larson — the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and Joanne Siegel, who served as the original model for Lois Lane. Larson, herself a retired award-winning journalist now suffering from multiple sclerosis, says she will never give up “fighting for what’s right”. She charges that Warner Bros has spent $35 million on corporate attorneys who now include Daniel Petrocelli, Matthew Kline and Cassandra Seto of O’Melveny & Myers. Here it is edited (and follows one written by her late mother directly to Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes):
October 11, 2012
Dear Superman Fans Everywhere,
My father, Jerry Siegel, co-created Superman as the “champion of the oppressed … sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!” But sadly his dying wish, for his family to regain his rightful share of Superman, has become a cautionary tale for writers and artists everywhere.
My family’s David and Goliath struggle against Warner Bros, the media conglomerate, goes back to April 1997, when my mom and I exercised our clear right under the Copyright Act to achieve my dad’s dream of recovering his copyrights. In April 1999, my dad’s half of the original Superman rights reverted to us, entitling our family to a significant share of Superman profits, which Warner/DC Comics refused to pay. For over thirteen years they have fought us at every turn, in and out of court, aiming to make recovery of the money they owe us so impossibly difficult that we would give up and settle for peanuts.
We refused to be intimidated despite my elderly mom’s heart condition and my multiple sclerosis. In 2008 the U.S. District Court ruled that my mom and I had successfully recaptured my father’s Superman copyrights and were entitled to Superman profits since April 1999.
Angered and alarmed by this defeat, Warner Bros resorted to a despicable old trick: diverting attention from the legal merits of our case by personally attacking our long-time lawyer, Marc Toberoff. Through DC, the media giant filed a lawsuit against Mr. Toberoff, my family and the Estate of Superman’s co-creator Joe Shuster, falsely claiming “unfair competition” and that Toberoff interfered with an out of court offer that Warner tried to push on my mom and me in early 2002 – an offer full of studio accounting traps that we refused to sign before we even knew Mr. Toberoff.
Warner Bros possesses documents stolen from my attorney’s office which mysteriously ended up on the desks of three top Warner executives. Warner claims it has no evidence whatsoever as to when these large packages arrived. According to Warner, the thief also included a cowardly anonymous letter that vilifies our attorney and mischaracterizes the privileged attorney-client communications enclosed. In a disgraceful violation of my privacy, Warner’s lawyers attached this nasty anonymous letter to a publicly filed complaint and leaked it to the media.
Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Superman is coming to Comic-Con with a one-two punch. Deadline has learned that Man of Steel star Henry Cavill be joining director Zack Snyder today at the Warner Bros booth on the Comic-Con exhibition floor. They’re expected to sign autographs at booth #4535 at 5 PM. Presently the 30-minute planned Man of Steel session just says “Participants: TBD” on the booth’s site right after the 3-hour Warner Bros Pictures and Legendary Pictures panel in Hall H today at 2 PM. After swirling rumors, WB confirmed Snyder’s appearance on the studio’s panel, which includes Hobbit director Peter Jackson and cast as well as Pacific Rim director Guillermo Del Toro and cast among others. Though anticipated, the studio has never confirmed Cavil’s appearance. The Superman reboot is scheduled to be released on June 14, 2013.
Warner Bros got big judicial boost today in the case about who really owns the rights to Superman. First, the Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit unanimously rejected an attempt by Marc Toberoff, the lawyer for the estates of Superman’s co-creators, to use attorney-client privilege to keep documents pertinent to the long-ongoing copyright case secret. Then, while noting it wasn’t a matter before the court in this instance, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain took the rare step of specifically noting the “ethical and professional concerns raised by Toberoff’s actions” in playing the role of both lawyer and business adviser for the estates of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.
Related: Warner Bros/DC Comics Sues Superman Copyright Lawyer
Toberoff has wanted to deny the studio legal use of material that Warner Bros claims clearly shows there was a competing joint venture between the heirs and Toberoff’s Pacific Pictures to eventually produce a new Superman movie among other things. Toberoff had cited attorney-client privilege on documents that had been stolen from his office in 2006 by former associate David Michaels and given to Warner Bros. In 2010, in the midst of his battles with the studio, Toberoff granted a “selective waiver” of the confidentiality privilege to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s investigation of Michaels’ theft. O’Scannlain, writing the 16-page opinion for the three-judge panel, said, “given that Congress has declined broadly to adopt a new privilege to protect disclosures of attorney-client privileged materials to the government, we will not do so here.”
Related: WB Vendetta Against Superman Copyright Lawyer Relying On Stolen Files Read More »
The logo for Man Of Steel was released this week on the film’s Facebook page, and it confirms that director Zack Snyder and writers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer are creating a moody, atmospheric and edgy Superman for Warner Bros. From the moment the first stills were released last summer, it was clear this summer 2013 tentpole would be darker than previous versions. The iconic “S” that has been part of the Superman look from the time Joe Shuster designed him in 1932 is still there, but with a more ominous look. Henry Cavill takes over as Clark Kent/Superman, with Amy Adams on board as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent and Michael Shannon as the villain, General Zod. Warner Bros is keeping most plot details under wraps as it builds anticipation for what it hopes will be a blockbuster franchise on the order of its Nolan-helmed Batman movies.
Related: Henry Cavill Talks New ‘Superman’ On Leno
Freelance journalist Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
In a strategic move in the copyright battle between Warner Bros and the heirs to Superman’s creators, the studio has filed an appeal to reverse earlier rulings in the case and put everything out in open court in a trial. “This long-running dispute should be brought to an end,” Warner Bros wrote in a dense 117-page appeal (read it here) filed Friday with the 9th Circuit Court. In typical Hollywood legalities, the move actually resolves nothing — expect to see a response from the heirs and then another back from Warner Bros, and all off it to end up one way or another in the Appellate Court sometime in the late summer or early fall.
Related: Letter From Lois Lane To Time Warner Boss
Through the courts, the estate of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel recaptured half of the original Superman rights in 2008, with the estate of co-creator Joe Shuster to do the same in 2013. Warner Bros, which owns longtime Superman publisher DC Comics, disagrees with those decisions. “This case is about the ownership of copyright in the earliest comics that introduced elements of the iconic Superman character and story,” the appeal from Warners lawyer Daniel Petrocelli states. “The case presents an unusually broad array of doctrinal, factual, and procedural issues. But much of the case reduces to a familiar proposition: a deal is a deal.” Read More »
The first issue of Action Comics, which came out in 1938, cost 10 cents and featured the first appearance of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s superhero Superman, sold at auction today for $2.16 million. That’s a record for a single comic book, breaking the mark of $1.5 million set in 2010 by another Action Comics No. 1 copy, which wasn’t in as pristine shape. The record-breaking issue sold today went for $86,000 in 1992 and $150,000 in 1997, when it was reportedly purchased by Nicolas Cage. But it was stolen in 2000 and assumed lost until it turned up among the contents of a storage shed purchased by an unidentified buyer in April. Only about 100 copies of the issue are believed to exist. Neither the new buyer or the seller were identified.
The Immortals star confirms on The Tonight Show that he almost became the new James Bond (“down to Daniel and me”) and was Stephenie Meyer’s first choice for Twilight (“she apparently was very keen on me playing it, but by the time it came around to casting I was too old”). In Man Of Steel, Russell Crowe plays his father. But 11 years ago, Cavill appeared as an extra in the Crowe pic Proof Of Life. Cavill walked up to Crowe and asked what it was like to be an actor. And two days later received a photo of Russell in Gladiator signed, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Cavill says he trained two hours a day for eight months to play Superman and talks about the new look here:
Warner Bros/DC Comics Sues Superman Copyright Lawyer
WB Vendetta Against Superman Copyright Lawyer Relying On Stolen Files
Letter From Lois Lane To Time Warner Boss
Ruling on behalf of Warner Bros., a federal judge on Tuesday rejected copyright lawyer Marc Toberoff’s claims that his actions as lawyer for heirs of the co-creators of Superman were protected against legal interference. In so doing the judge allowed Warner Bros.’ lawsuit against Toberoff to move forward. The judge also granted Warner Bros access to a July 2003 letter from Laura Siegel to her late brother Michael. Warner Bros. outside counsel Daniel Petrocelli is seeking to undo Toberoff’s relationship with the heirs of Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster by accusing the attorney of interfering as a competing business owner in agreements the studio and DC had made with the heirs.
Petrocelli was hired to come up with a strategy to prevent the studio from possibly losing a portion of the copyright to Superman in 2013 as a court has previously ruled. Petrocelli filed the current lawsuit last May to put Toberoff in a position where he might have to resign as the attorney for the Siegels and Shusters. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright found that the studio’s argument “makes sense.” He ruled that because Toberoff had established business arrangements through his own company Pacific Pictures with heirs of Siegel and Shuster, he was not protected under California’s anti-SLAAP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute that protects rights owners against legal intimidation. Wright rejected Toberoff’s anti-SLAPP argument, ruling that he was acting in his capacity as a businessman, not a lawyer, through Pacific Pictures — specifically concerning exploitation of Joe Shuster’s creations.
Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Superman is getting a new mom. Ayelet Zurer, the Israeli actress who starred in Angels & Demons and who played the wife of Avner (Eric Bana) in Munich, has been set to play the role of Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s Kryptonian mother, in Man of Steel. Production is underway on the Warner Bros/Legendary film. That role was originally going to be played by Julia Ormond. I was unable to find out why director Zack Snyder made the last-minute change, but I’ve confirmed that Zurer will start filming this week. Henry Cavill plays Superman, Russell Crowe plays Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El, and Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Michael Shannon also star. Zurer will next be seen starring in the Lawrence Kasdan-directed Darling Companion opposite Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline and Dianne Wiest for Sony Pictures Classics. She’s repped by IFA Talent Agency. Man of Steel is produced by Chris Nolan, Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder and Emma Thomas.
EXCLUSIVE: An insider just told me that DC Entertainment at Warner Bros is “in the throes of turning the comic book industry on its head” with a massive publishing relaunch. “DC Comics – The New 52” (see exclusive video below) is a bold renumbering of all of DC’s superhero comics (52 all-new #1 issues). And the industry-changing move is to now offer comics for sale digitally on the very same day as physically. “The New 52” kicks off at midnight tonight in comic shops across the nation. Now, some details may have leaked out to the comic book pundits. But I can tell you exclusively that the first printing of Justice League #1 has officially sold out today in advance of tomorrow’s on-sale date, and DC is rushing back to press for a second printing. (Yes, I know: these things almost always sell out. And in the not-so-old days sold way more.) Over 200,000 physical copies of JL1, along with tens of thousands of digital copies, are expected to be sold worldwide. I understand that Justice League #1 has a particular connection to DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson’s exec team, as its writer is DCE’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and its artist is DCE’s Co-Publisher Jim Lee, two of the biggest creators in the industry. The pair will be signing at Midtown Comics in NYC’s Times Square tonight. Insiders are calling it “the beginning of the biggest comic industry publishing event in nearly a decade”. I’m told that “DC Comics – The New 52” will continue launching throughout September, with new #1 titles for Action Comics, Batman, Detective, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, and Wonder Woman releasing in-store and online every Wednesday. Here’s the video teaser:
(See the cover art bigger after the jump.) Read More »
Warner Bros today released a first photo of British actor Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel, the franchise reboot that’s being directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan. Cavill stars with Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Antje Traue, Julia Ormond, Russell Crowe, Chris Meloni, Harry Lennix and Laurence Fishburne. Currently in production, Man of Steel is slated for release on June 14, 2013: