According to Variety the ongoing Siegel/DC/Time Warner battle for Superboy took another step at the end of March when Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, in a summary judgement found that Smallville may be infringing upon the copyright to Superboy which are, according to the ruling held by Joanne Siegel and Laura Siegel Larson, the wife and daughter of the late Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel.
More importantly, in the summary judgment, which was made March 23rd, Judge Lew found that the Siegels had successfully recaptured the Superboy rights as of November 17th, 2004. Technically, and according to Lew’s ruling, the Siegels have owned the character of Superboy since that time, and following that through, would be due a portion of the profits generated by the show since then.
Lew denied a request from Warner Bros. for a ruling that Smallville does not, in fact, infringe upon the Superboy copyrights. Warner Bros. says it “respectfully disagrees” with the ruling, and will pursue an appeal.
Though the ruling may sound impressive, it hinges on the word “may.” Whether or not Smallville does infringe upon the Superboy copyrights still needs to be settled. Well – as settled as these things can be settled, which normally means appeal after appeal after appeal.
The ruling came at the Siegel’s request when they filed for a partial summary judgment, rather than a ruling on copyright infringement, which Lew said in his ruling would call for a “detailed factual comparison.” Lew did agree that there had been enough facts presented to the court to convince it that the lead character in Smallville is, in fact, Superboy.
Warner, as it had done in answering the Seigels’ complaint in late 2004, asserted that the Siegel’s complaint claims infringement on the costumed character of Superboy (which the Siegels claim was created by Jerry), and Smallville does not feature Superboy, but rather a young Clark Kent, which appeared in Superman comics prior to the first publication of Superboy in comics (1944). In making this claim, Warner Bros. said that the use of Clark Kent in Smallville are not subject to the termination of the transfer of copyright filed by the Siegels – even if the court does find the termination to be valid.
Something that many Superman scholars have noted was mentioned by the Siegels’ attorney Marc Toberoff in the Variety piece, that is, images of a young Clark Kent that pre-date 1944 were limited to showing Superman as a baby, or as a toddler, not as a teenager or adolescent.
One of what may be many landmarks to come in the legal matter came when, in his summary, Judge Lew said that Time Warner’s (and its co-defendants, Warner Bros. and DC Comics) arguments that Superboy was, in fact, work for hire when it was created were not persuasive in light of the 1947 ruling by New York State Judge Addison Young, who ruled that the rights to Superboy did belong to Siegel, and therefore, he did transfer the copyright to National (later DC Comics) in 1948
Lew wrote: "Defendants' [Time Warner] attempt to recast Superboy as a 'derivative work' or 'work for hire' stands in stark contrast to Judge Young's conclusion that Detective/National was 'perpetually enjoined and restrained from creating, publishing, selling or distributing' Superboy, based on the fact that Siegel was the sole and exclusive owner."
"Defendants' argument also contradicts the fact that Siegel subsequently transferred his exclusive interest in Superboy to National in the May 19, 1948, stipulated settlement. Had Superboy been nothing more than a derivative work, Siegel would have owned no interest in the Superboy property to transfer."
Making note of the fact that Time Warner had based an argument on Young’s rulings in the past, such as the 1973 lawsuit by Siegel and Joe Shuster to regain the rights to Superman, Lew added: "Defendants now take the inconsistent position that this court is not bound by the state court findings, as they relate to Superboy.”
Of course, conspiracy theorists will have a field day with the fact that in DC’s recent Infinite Crisis miniseries, a version of Superboy has been revealed to be one of the works’ major villains, and that, in this week’s issue, apparently both “Superboys” have been killed, perhaps clearing the way for one to return using the name “Supernova” – thus effectively shedding the DC Universe of any character named “Superboy.” -----------------------------------------------------------
I guess I'm finding this kind of confusing. So, since they never originally showed Superman as a teenager in the early years, Superboy technically didn't exist until Seigel "discovered" him years later? I find that kind of hard to swallow. (Like I'm a judge or anything.)
I DID find that last paragraph interesting as I've heard rumblings about "Supernova" the past six months and that it was tied into Superman somehow, but now it all makes sense with SN being SB-Prime, what with his Anti-Monitor "yellow sun collector" armor. Hopefully they'll keep him around a while as he's turning into a kickass bad guy.
Originally posted by JimBob SkeeterSo, since they never originally showed Superman as a teenager in the early years, Superboy technically didn't exist until Seigel "discovered" him years later? I find that kind of hard to swallow. (Like I'm a judge or anything.)
(edited by JimBob Skeeter on 11.4.06 1343)
Here's the thing, Jerry Siegel proposed a Superboy series in I think '40 or '41, but it was shelved by the editor because it didn't fit in with how they were portraying Superman at the time (Siegel's Superboy was more of a prankster, and the rejection of the proposal actually lead to the introduction of The Prankster and Mr. Mxyzptlk)
Later, a different editor thought that the basic idea of Superman as a kid was good enough for at least a couple of stories and assigned it to a different writer. A couple of years later, at the end of their initial 10 year contract they sued for money owed to them, and the rights to Superman, Superboy, etc.
Given that no one had told Siegel to come up with a new character, the judge decided that the creation of Superboy was not a work-for-hire, and therefore rightly at least partially the property of Siegel. Siegel's lawyers gave him some bad (though in the long run good) legal advice and told him to settle with National (nee DC) and sell them his rights to Superboy.
By buying Siegel's rights to Superboy, DC admitted that he had a claim to the copyright, and that is what the case is based upon. In one of the copyright extending bills that was passed a couple of years ago it allowed the original owners of copyrights to rescind the transfer of those copyrights so that they could control them once again.
The kid is all confused and thinks to himself "I'm not calling anyone mommy because the last time I did that, it led to this." -My Wife on adoption