Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Trouble in Smallville: At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald reports on recent rumors of a challenge to DC Comics' ownership of Superboy, and traces the often-dicey legal history of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creations:

"As well documented, Siegel and Shuster sold all rights to Superman to National Periodicals in 1938 for $130. Within just a few years, the character had become a sensation, with a radio drama and movie serial in addition to the comic.

"In 1947, while the character remained enormously profitable, the duo were getting less and less work, and sued DC (as the company was then known) to regain the rights to Superman. Although the judge ruled in favor of DC, he assigned the rights to Superboy – a separate character who had recently been introduced in the pages of MORE FUN COMICS – to Siegel and Shuster, citing the fact that the editorially created character was an unfair infringement on their original copyright. According to Gerard Jones' upcoming history of the period MEN OF TOMORROW, Siegel and Shuster, devastated by the loss of the Superman suit and fearing DC's legal might, settled by selling the rights to Superboy back to DC for $100,000. In addition, so bad were feelings surrounding the lawsuit that their names were removed from the credits. ...

"... While the Superman claim remains mired in legal red tape, the Superboy claim appears to be a bit more clear cut – Siegel and Shuster were granted ownership of the character in the 1947 decision, and their subsequent sale of the character to DC would come under the jurisdiction of Section 304 of the copyright law.

"For everyone who has a headache after all this legal talk, the question may be, what's the bottom line: well, here's one word for you: SMALLVILLE, an enormously successful show about a young Clark Kent, who is about to become Superboy. Should the copyright termination stand, DC could be forced to make a very large payment to the Siegel family. "

Update: At Newsarama, Matt Brady weighs in with his own analysis.