Another court decision has been made in the Siegel family’s tense relationship with DC Comics. By virtue of previous decisions, the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel have been co-owners with DC Comics of the Superman copyright from 1999 until now. In 2008, the Siegels alleged that DC, in licensing the Superman characters to Warner Bros. Entertainment for audiovisual projects including “Smallville” and “Superman Returns,” violated the terms of their profit-sharing agreement.
The plaintiffs felt that because Warner Bros. Entertainment and DC Comics are both part of the same corporate entity, the licensing fees paid to DC Comics in the period between 1999 and 2002 (for the aforementioned "Smallville" and "Superman Returns" projects) were below market value. Essentially, the Siegels argued that DC Comics gave Warner Bros. Entertainment a "sweetheart deal," which would result in DC (and due to their co-ownership, the Siegels) not receiving as much money as they would in a traditionally “fair market deal.”
In today’s decision, the court ruled that DC and Warner Bros. Entertainment did indeed participate in a “fair market deal,” and that the Siegels are not entitled to any payments beyond the terms of the audiovisual licenses as they presently stand.
The following is a statement on the matter released by Warner Bros. Entertainment and DC Comics.
DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment are very gratified by the court’s thorough and well-reasoned decision in this matter. The decision validates what DC and Warner Bros. have maintained from the beginning, which is that when they do business with each other, they always strive for – and achieve – fair market value in their transactions. We are very pleased that the court found there was no merit to plaintiffs’ position that the Superman deals were unfair to DC Comics and, by extension, the plaintiffs.
The full decision can be read below.
Comics Should Be Good Blog Manager Brian Cronin contributed to this story.