Author Topic: Siegel and Superboy  (Read 83259 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Bob

  • Parker Girl
  • ****
  • Posts: 30
    • View Profile
    • http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/
Siegel and Superboy
« on: April 14, 2006, 08:37:10 PM »
Probably the biggest and most confusing goings on in creator rights at the moment is the ownership status of Superboy.  

Here are a few links to online articles about the situation.

In a nutshell, Siegel sued DC back in the 1940s after they lauched a Superboy feature without him.  In a decision I don't understand the judge ruled that Superman was work-for-hire and belonged to DC (despite being created years before National bought the first story) while Superboy was not and belonged to Siegel.  On possibly questionable legel advice, Siegel sold the rights to Superboy to National for what was probably a low figure, and the creators of Superman were soon thereafter fired, with Siegel not writing the character again for over a decade, and neither of them getting a credit on the books for three decades.

However, thanks to the copyright extensions passed in the 1970s and later, creators and their heirs have some rights to the additional copyright terms, on the logic that the buyer got what they paid for with the law at the time.  Therefore, Siegel's heirs were eligible to file to reclaim Superboy, and did so.  Exactly what this means has been winding its way through the courts for years now, in particular how it effects the rights to the TV show SMALLVILLE (which has a teenage Kryptonian Clark Kent, living in Smallville with his parents and learning to use his powers, and supporting characters like Lana Lang and Pete Ross who first appeared in Superboy stories, but never actually used the term "Superboy").

Well, that's my understanding of how it stands.  As I said, the original decision confuses me, since I think logic dictates that Superman was not work-for-hire, and therefore both Siegel and Shuster (or their families) should have been able to reclaim Superman years ago.

I'm also surprised this hasn't come up more.  I think Simon had a filing for Captain America and ended up settling with Marvel, which is why an S&K credit started showing up in Cap comics a few years back, though I don't think too many details of that were released to the public.  I've been given to understand that DC has quietly negotiated agreements with some other creators (Paul Norris for Aquaman, as an example) but given their history I have to wonder if they're keeping it quiet in order to lowball their settlements.

Thoughts?

Tony Lemesma

  • Guest
What is work for hire?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2006, 01:27:58 AM »
Hi Bob

Can you explain to me exactly what a work for hire is?
I'm confused as freelancers aren't technically employees of companies, If anything, they are self employed, now with this in mind how can a company claim to own something that was done during the course of employment if a freelancer technically isn't an employee.

However what If a writer or artist never signed an agreement with a publisher but went on to work for them for 20 years, surely that would be seen as employment by the courts and even without an agreement the publisher would be see to be the owner?

These are the areas that I believe need addressing.

Regards

Tony

Bob

  • Parker Girl
  • ****
  • Posts: 30
    • View Profile
    • http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2006, 04:51:53 AM »
Tony,

Work for Hire

Quote
Works Made for Hire. -- (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. 17 U.S.C. sec 101


Which clearly does not apply to Superman under any definition, hence why I don't understand the original judgement.  But I'm not a lawyer and there may be more subtle legal aspects I'm missing.  Plus of course in the real world people start work on projects before there's a written contract, write stuff on spec or as part of a pitch and that doesn't disqualify them from being work for hire.  Plus comics in general were run on a very ad hoc basis for the first few decades, with few proper contracts (often ignored in any case), lots of grey areas, and in cases like that the side with the most money for lawyers tends to win.  Hopefully not in this case, though.

Al Nickerson

  • Administrator
  • Avenger
  • *****
  • Posts: 280
    • View Profile
    • http://anactoffaithcomic.com/
    • Email
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2006, 06:11:59 AM »
I do find the recent events concerning the ownership of Superboy to be very interesting. I think most of us can agree that Siegel and Shuster (or now their families) should own Superman and any related characters.

Yet, if you create a character on your own and you then sign those rights away to another company or publisher, then (obviously) that character no longer belongs to you.

It would be nice to see the Siegels get control of the Superboy property, but I have a feeling this recent litigation is just an attempt by the Siegels to get more money from the Superman franchise. Which, I think they rightly deserve.

Bob

  • Parker Girl
  • ****
  • Posts: 30
    • View Profile
    • http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2006, 11:07:55 AM »
Quote
Yet, if you create a character on your own and you then sign those rights away to another company or publisher, then (obviously) that character no longer belongs to you.

Well, two points on that.  First, absent of having seen any actual contracts (which may not even exist), I'm not sure I agree that S&S signed away the rights to Superman when they sold the first story to be published in ACTION #1.  My understanding is they were paid a flat page rate, probably their same page rate for Slam Bradley or anything else, or even a story on a pre-existing character.  DC might argue that the "industry standard" was that the publisher bought all rights to the characters in perpetuity for that rate, but that's far from clear.  Sheldon Mayer started Scribbly at Dell, then when he became an editor at All-American brought the character with him.  Other characters moved around as well.  When publishers bought strip reprints (which most comic books were prior to S&S) they didn't own the characters, they only bought the one-time reproduction rights.

Second, okay, let's assume they sold the character.  Under copyright law of the time, what National/DC bought was the character for 56 years.  They got that through 1993, and they made a lot of money.  If you accept that Superman was not work-for-hire (screwball 1947 legal decision aside) then by the letter of the law the renewal rights at that point belonged to Jerry Siegel and the heirs of Joe Shuster.

Unfortunately, the side that pervails isn't always the right one, it's the one with the money to spend on endless legal challenges to wear the other side down.   Even in the Superboy case, despite the Siegel heirs' position winning at every turn (again, screwball legal decision, but this time working to Siegel's advantage), how draining must it be for them to challenge every inane claim DC makes (SMALLVILLE isn't based on Superboy?).  Whereas for Time-Warner the effort to make those claims is a drop in the bucket (between the movie and merchandise they'll probably take in over a billion dollars on Superman this year alone).

Al Nickerson

  • Administrator
  • Avenger
  • *****
  • Posts: 280
    • View Profile
    • http://anactoffaithcomic.com/
    • Email
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2006, 11:16:09 AM »
Right... just because it's legal, doesn't make it ethical.

Yeah, I have no idea what sort of contracts Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster signed with National/DC. Although, during the time of SUPERMAN THE MOVIE, Siegel and Shuster signed some sort of new deal with DC.

Not too long ago, THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR printed some of Jack Kirby's old contracts that he had signed with Marvel. That was very interesting to look at. In one contract, Marvel made sure that Jack signed away his rights to Captain America.

Pretty sad all around.  :(

Bob

  • Parker Girl
  • ****
  • Posts: 30
    • View Profile
    • http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2006, 05:46:27 PM »
There's actually some interesting background to that contract for Captain America, which I think was touched on in that KIRBY COLLECTOR issue but which Joe Simon goes into in THE COMIC BOOK MAKERS as well.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the broad strokes of Kirby's career as part of doing the Kirby Weblog, but the format of the weblog doesn't really allow for musings on the business side (I made the conscious decision to focus on what's on the page wherever possible, not the business aspects).  Maybe someday I'll write a piece on that, though I'm hoping that Evanier's eventual Kirby bio fills in some of the disconnects.

Bob

  • Parker Girl
  • ****
  • Posts: 30
    • View Profile
    • http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2007, 10:06:35 PM »
I thought this was a kind of interesting side-door update on the longstanding Superboy legal drama.  Apparently DC decided that an image of Superboy had to be removed from a recap of the Teen Titans origin (I'm so old I didn't even know Superboy had anything to do with the Teen Titans...).  That's in addition to the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon featuring "Superman" for a character who's clearly Superboy.

Al Nickerson

  • Administrator
  • Avenger
  • *****
  • Posts: 280
    • View Profile
    • http://anactoffaithcomic.com/
    • Email
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2007, 07:40:38 AM »
Quote from: "Bob"
I thought this was a kind of interesting side-door update on the longstanding Superboy legal drama.  Apparently DC decided that an image of Superboy had to be removed from a recap of the Teen Titans origin (I'm so old I didn't even know Superboy had anything to do with the Teen Titans...).  That's in addition to the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon featuring "Superman" for a character who's clearly Superboy.


Thanks for sharing, Bob.  :D

Wow... it looks like all this legal to-do really has DC scared.  :o It'll be interesting to see how this all ends.

Al Nickerson

  • Administrator
  • Avenger
  • *****
  • Posts: 280
    • View Profile
    • http://anactoffaithcomic.com/
    • Email
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2007, 05:56:36 PM »
Heidi MacDonald has a bit of an update with the latest Superboy "ruling"...

http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2007/08/05/new-superboy-ruling/

Al Nickerson

  • Administrator
  • Avenger
  • *****
  • Posts: 280
    • View Profile
    • http://anactoffaithcomic.com/
    • Email
Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2007, 10:28:29 AM »
Here's an analysis of the current situation as described by someone who knows more than me about this legal stuff...

http://blog.newsarama.com/2007/08/16/whats-so-super-about-superboy/

Bob

  • Parker Girl
  • ****
  • Posts: 30
    • View Profile
    • http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/
Re: Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2007, 10:29:52 AM »
Some court dates set for next spring and various legal documents all too technical for me (some relating to lawyers trying to get financial info on Superman) at these sites:

http://trexfiles.com/2007/12/the-siegel-superboy-and-superm.html
http://adventure247.blogspot.com/2007/12/superboy-lawsuit-update-dec-2007.html

Al Nickerson

  • Administrator
  • Avenger
  • *****
  • Posts: 280
    • View Profile
    • http://anactoffaithcomic.com/
    • Email
Re: Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2007, 10:42:30 AM »
Thanks for the links, Bob. And thanks for keeping us updated. :)

It should be interesting to see how this all ends up. My guess is that Warner Bros./DC Comics will eventually settle with the Siegel family.

Bob

  • Parker Girl
  • ****
  • Posts: 30
    • View Profile
    • http://fourrealities.blogspot.com/
Re: Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2008, 05:48:51 PM »
Well, this seems like good news, though the details of the legalese are above me:

http://uncivilsociety.org/2008/03/the-siegel-superman-decision.html

Still lots of unresolved issues (including the whole Superboy thing which is a separate case, and to show off my legal expertese the one I thought was more likely to go forward first), and of course endless appeals.

Al Nickerson

  • Administrator
  • Avenger
  • *****
  • Posts: 280
    • View Profile
    • http://anactoffaithcomic.com/
    • Email
Re: Siegel and Superboy
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2008, 06:40:35 PM »
Whoa... this does seem like a big deal. It looks as if the judge is saying that the Jerry Siegel family owns half of the copyright to Superman!

Thanks for the heads up, Bob. :)

Newsarama reports on this ruling...

http://blog.newsarama.com/?p=7615

as does does Comic Book Resources...

http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=13526