Warner Wins Legal Battle Over ‘Superman’ Film Rights11 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Warner Bros. has retained commercial rights to Superman following a Jan. 10 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco. The legal victory comes as Warner is preparing to reboot the lucrative film franchise similar to what it did with Batman and director Christopher Nolan.
Specifically, the three-judge panel said a 2001 letter written on behalf of the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel granting 50% ownership to the studio was binding despite never being formalized into a contract.
The decision reverses a 2008 lower court ruling that found Warner should share with the heirs all revenue generated by Superman movies and related ventures since 1999, in addition to granting ownership of the Superman costume, among other conditions.
The other 50% stake in Superman is held by the brother and sister of co-creator Joseph Shuster, who also sought to wrest control of the franchise from Warner. A federal judge in October ruled in favor of the studio.
Warner re-launched the superhero in 2006 with Superman Returns from director Bryan Singer. The movie generated $390 million at the global box office, in addition to more than $81 million in DVD sales, according to The-Numbers.com.
“The court's decision paves the way for the Siegel finally to receive the compensation they negotiated for and which DC [Comics] has been prepared to pay for over a decade,” Warner said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased that Superman’s adventures can continue to be enjoyed across all media platforms worldwide for generations to come.”
Warner’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Nolan, arrives in theaters June 14.