Copyright Insanity: Courts Continue To Try To Slice And Dice The Superman Copyright

from the who-gets-what-now? dept

For years, I’ve been watching the rather insane battle between the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and Warner Bros., over who owns what copyrights concerning Superman. The overall details of the case are honestly too bizarre and convoluted to get into all of the details as to how we got here, but suffice it to say, it’s yet another example of how twisted copyright has become, in this specific instance, focused on “termination” rights when it comes to copyright. If you want a good detailed explanation of the history here, this is a pretty good summary. As it stands now, both parties own some of the rights to Superman, which makes for some awkward problems. BobinBaltimore alerts us to a short writeup concerning the latest ruling in the ongoing series of court cases, and just a quick summary should detail the insanity that we’re dealing with:

The court ruled, for the most part, that the Siegels successfully recaptured most of the works at issue, including those first two weeks of daily Superman strips, as well as key sections of early Action Comics and Superman comics.This means the Siegels, repped by Warners’ nemesis Marc Toberoff, now control depictions of Superman’s origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-El and Lora, Superman as an infant, the launching of the baby Superman into space and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash.

But Warners/DC still owns other elements, including Superman’s ability to fly, the term “kryptonite,” the villain Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, and some of Superman’s powers.

It’s like a Solomon-like “splitting of the baby” to figure out who can actually do what. In the meantime… the idea that Superman can fly is covered by copyright? Yikes.

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Companies: warner bros.

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Comments on “Copyright Insanity: Courts Continue To Try To Slice And Dice The Superman Copyright”

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Alfredo Octavio (profile) says:

Superman can fly?

In the beginning, at least in the first comic, Superman couldn’t fly, only use his super strength to leap tall buildings. So someone had to come up with the idea that what Superman was doing was flying… right? right? What’s the difference between that and, say, inventing the light bulb!

I hate that Superman can fly, is affected by kriptonite, and has heat vision… Only his super strength is explained in the comic: Kripton was a larger planet and the people there where super athletes. So, of course the baby is a super athlete in a smaller planet…

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Now, I am wondering what would happen if superman suddenly gained the ability to teleport very short distances in any direction, therebye giving the appearance of flight, but actually teleporting… Or perhaps more amusingly, what if he went back in time and killed his baby self by flying. (off camera of course) Who would own the rights to the paradoxe that would ensue?

Enrico Suarve says:

Meanwhile on the other side of town...

So it turns out that the only things that can remove Supermans powers, thereby exposing metropolis and the world to to yet another crime wave/global disaster are

1) Kryptonite
2) Copyright Lawyers

Why am I not surprised?

I can actually see the day when the earth’s Meteorite defense shield fails as copyright lawyers have tied up the activation code…

Hans Christian Vang says:


Siegels Superman could jump a building, not fly. He never participated in any of the revamps of the character that created the Superman we all know today.

So, the Siegels can do whatever they want with the Super Man the Siegels originally created, who is an alien from Krypton who is strong and can jump around town, beating criminals to a pulp.

Anything DC and Warner spent the billions they’ve spent on the branding of the character, nope. That includes all logos, insignias, etc, cause they sure don’t own the Superman shield either – he only had a goofy S in a triangle on his chest in the first place.

But good for them – i’d love to see a comic based on this early edition of super man, though I doubt it would be accepted by superman fans as canon.

Trojan says:

Using Grey and Brown Superman

The Grey and brown Superman from Superman (1948) is a 15-part black-and-white Columbia film serial based on the comic book character Superman can replace the blue and red Superman.

After reading the internet address listed below what do you think of the grew and brown superman?

I think it looks cool and could serve good for 20 years under current copyright law in the United States anyways.

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