It was announced yesterday (via THR) that a federal judge has ruled in favor of Warner Bros. in relation to their stake in the copyright of Superman. The suit was brought up by Jean Peavy, who is the sister of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, as a 'termination notice' on the copyright to the character. Judge Otis D. Wright ruled that an agreement made in 1992 by Peavy negated their current attempt at a termination notice.
When Shuster died in 1992, Peavy was named the sole successor and heir to the Superman property. She wrote to DC to collect "her brother's final debts and expenses." Then Executive VP Paul Levitz agreed and said, "This agreement would represent the author/heir's last and final deal with DC, and would fully resolve any past, present, or future claims against DC," to which Peavy said she agreed and would not attempt "to reclaim the Superman copyright."
The Judge ruled "the 1992 Agreement, which represented the Shuster heirsí opportunity to renegotiate the prior grants of Joe Shusterís copyrights, superseded and replaced all prior grants of the Superman copyrights. The 1992 Agreement thus represents the partiesí operative agreement and, as a post-1978 grant, it is not subject to termination."
This comes just four years after Warner Bros. lost a similar case. In 2008, the estate of Jerry Siegel, the other co-creator of the Man of Steel, had their termination notice validated by a federal judge which entitled them to some of "Supermanís defining characteristics, such as his costume, Clark Kent and his origin story, as described in the first editions of Action Comics."
This decision comes with Warner Bros. heavy into production of their latest Superman film, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which is set for release on June 14, 2013.