View Full Version : Superman in DVD lawsuit
06-25-2002, 03:55 PM
Another case of some greedy party coming forward and wanting to get their slice of the money from DVD's. Alot of people are watching this case very closely, because if it goes down bad for Warner Bros. the future of Special Editions of movies could be in jeopardy. The following report is from BBC News:
The makers of a DVD of the hit 1978 Superman movie are facing a legal battle over bonus footage included in the release. A UK company says film giant Warner Bros, who released the classic hit on DVD in 2001, included extra features like the actors' original screen tests and special effects test footage without permission.
Pueblo Film Licensing says it gained the original production rights after the movie's producer, Alexander Salkind, died in 1997.
Superman, starring Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando, was one of the most successful films ever at the time of its release, earning $300m (£200m) at worldwide box offices and spawning three sequels.
Pueblo Film Licensing says Warner Bros did not get permission to use some clips on the DVD, which also included previously unseen scenes and an audio commentary by director Richard Donner.
"You can't use the bonus material if you don't pay for it. That's the whole issue," said entertainment lawyer Jeffrey Spitz, who is representing Pueblo.
Pueblo filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court on Monday, 24 June, and also have another lawsuit pending in California state court against Warner Bros over future Superman sequels.
Warner Bros acquired the rights to make future Superman sequels in 1993 - but has not done so.
Their spokesperson said the studio had not seen the lawsuit but did not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy.
Superman's DVD release came as many vintage films are put out on the format that has now gained wide popularity.
Its disc capacity means much more than just the film can be included - and most releases now come with bonus material such as out-takes and alternative endings.
Mr Spitz said the releases of classic movies on DVD could attract more legal problems.
"I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a more heavily litigated matter," he said.
"It's clear that they [directors] weren't thinking about this when they made the classic movies."
MTFBWY and HH!!
Jar Jar Binks
06-25-2002, 04:03 PM
Well Warner Bros. has really gone down the last few years. Shouldn't this whole case issue have been done and settled last year BEFORE the DVD came out?
06-25-2002, 04:13 PM
It wasn't brought up until after the DVD was released. They were waiting until the discs were out and selling, so that WB wouldn't just drop the special features, so as to not have to pay. By waiting til the discs are already out, if WB looses the case, they will have to pay for using the extras, as well as paying a royalty for ever disc that sells. In other words, they were waiting, because they are greedy. :(
MTFBWY and HH!!
Jar Jar Binks
06-25-2002, 06:09 PM
JarJar, Pueblo may well have known of WB's intentions in advance of the DVD's release and waited until after the release to file suit, but consider the following:
I've never heard of Pueblo before this post, and I'd bet most others on the forum were equally ignorant of its existence. That obscurity probably indicates that Pueblo would have had a difficult or impossible time financially, competing with WB's armies of lawyers in a lawsuit where they had to both prove ownership of copyright material, plus get an injunction stopping WB from releasing the DVD. And afterward, all they would have was a mountain of legal debt, and not a single red cent to show for it, since that kind of lawsuit would have simply prevented WB from ever using their material. Even if they did win back their legal fees as part of the court ruling or settlement, they still end up going through potentially years of legal wrangling for almost nothing.
But, if Pueblo files suit after the DVD release, then WB is in a much more exposed position, legally, because now the only thing Pueblo has to do is successfully argue that they properly own copyright to certain content in the DVD. The intent by WB to release the DVD is moot. They've already released it. Sure, Pueblo stands to gain more after the release, because there is now money from the DVD sales to go after, but it's inconceivable for a company like WB, who exist almost solely for the purpose of exploiting intellectual/creative properties, to claim ignorance of who owned copyright to material they used in their product.
If Pueblo does in fact truly own the copyright to the material WB used in the DVD, then hooray for them for sitting back and giving WB all the rope they needed to hang themselves, and shame on WB for exposing their stockholders to such a big potential loss.
I'm very much against frivolous or shamelessly greedy lawsuits, like the hot coffee spills, or the auto accident personal injury cases where there's no legitimate cause, and the motive is pure greed/abuse of the system. I've personally refused to go after a truck driver/company who ran over my leg when he clipped me while I was riding my bicycle, becaue I knew in my heart that it was my fault because I was riding unsafely at the time. I was only in 5th or 6th grade, and the trucking company would have NEVER allowed a jury to see me limping to the witness stand, or the photos of my crushed leg, the huge water tank truck, or my bike that was literally twisted up into a pretzel shape. The trucking company would have settled for almost anything we asked. My stepdad would hardly look at me or speak to me for a very long time when he realized I wasn't going to back down on my refusal to give a statement to our lawyer.
I'm not an apologist for Pueblo in justifying any greedy lawsuit. I think the case has merit it they do really own copyright to the content they claim is theirs, and I think they probably did this the only way they could realistically do it, without winding up bankrupt for their time and trouble for doing so.
06-26-2002, 12:27 AM
the real queston here for jar jar is:
napster: yea or nay?;)
06-26-2002, 07:05 AM
Wow, SWAFFY. That was very admirable of you. Your stock just went up a few points in my book.
I'm confused to when the commentary was done. I thought they did it for the DVD. If that's the case, how can Pueblo claim it's theirs?
I also think that Pueblo knew WB was adding stuff to their DVD and they did nothing. If they were going to say something, they should have said it then, and their silence in the matter equals consent. because they can hardly claim people bought the DVD to see their screen tests. They bought it to see the movie. Which is clearly owned by WB. There is a proper way to do these things and Pueblo purposefully did it the wrong way. That should be taken into account by those in charge.
06-26-2002, 10:22 AM
EP, I don't have a whole boatload of things on the + side of my balance sheet that are gonna gain an approving nod from St. Peter, in fact I'm probably just slightly less hellbound than Saddam Hussein, but that was one of very few moments of clarity on my part.
On the WB / Pueblo lawsuit, again, I suggest that Pueblo could not have afforded the up-front legal fees for any kind of pre-emptive move against WB, due to WB's formidable team of lawyers and their decades of experience in securing and protecting rights to properties. You contend that it was Pueblo's responsibility to stop WB from using their property before the DVD release. I don't know the law, but I suspect it is legally WB's responsibility to clear the rights to any materials they use in their productions.
In that kind of lawsuit, where Pueblo tried to stop the use of their material before the release, all they would ever stand to gain, assuming they even won, was their court costs. There would be no damages or royalites to recover. They would be gambling on the case's outcome to simply pay their attorney fees. I doubt that was a viable option for them, financially.
Once the DVD was released and the damages and royalties became a factor, all Pueblo needed to do was present reasonable proof of ownership of rights to some the material in the WB DVD, and they would have lawyers tripping over each other to take their case for no up-front fees, on a contingency basis for a piece of the settlement or award. That may very well have been the ONLY way Pueblo could afford to go after WB.
When you're talking about two businesses of similar financial standing, then what Pueblo did would have been profiteering. But when you're talking about what is probably a few people and some leased production equipment working in a rented studio or a converted house or garage going up against Time Warner in what may become a high-implication legal case, it's hard to condemn David for scrambling to gain some advantage over Goliath (IMHO).
02-16-2007, 01:45 PM
So, did this ever get cleared up?
08-15-2009, 05:14 PM
Superman co-creator's family given rights
Siegels now control character's Krypton origins
By MARC GRASER
Warner Bros. and DC Comics have lost a little more control over the Man of Steel.
In an ongoing Federal court battle over Superman, Judge Stephen Larson ruled Wednesday that the family of the superhero's co-creator, Jerry Siegel, has "successfully recaptured" rights to additional works, including the first two weeks of the daily Superman newspaper comic-strips, as well as portions of early Action Comics and Superman comic-books.
The ruling is based on the court's finding that these were not "works-made-for-hire" under the Copyright Act.
This means the Siegels -- repped by Marc Toberoff of Toberoff & Associates -- now control depictions of Superman's origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-El and Lora, Superman as the infant Kal-El, the launching of the infant Superman into space by his parents as Krypton explodes and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash.
The first Superman story was published in 1938 in Action Comics No. 1. For $130, Jerry Siegel and co-creator Joel Shuster signed a release in favor of DC's predecessor, Detective Comics, and a 1974 court decision ruled they signed away their copyrights forever.
In 2008, the same court order ruled on summary judgment that the Siegels had successfully recaptured (as of 1999) Siegel's copyright in Action Comics No. 1, giving them rights to the Superman character, including his costume, his alter-ego as reporter Clark Kent, the feisty reporter Lois Lane, their jobs at the Daily Planet newspaper working for a gruff editor, and the love triangle among Clark/Superman and Lois.
While ownership of the Man of Steel is one point of all this legal activity, the real issue is money and how much Warner Bros. and DC owe the Siegels from profits they collected from Superman since 1999, when the heirs' recapture of Siegel's copyright became effective.
DC owns other elements like Superman's ability to fly, the term kryptonite, the Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen characters, Superman's powers and expanded origins.
In a statement, Warner Bros. and DC said, "Warner and DC Comics are pleased that the court has affirmed that the vast majority of key elements associated with the Superman character that were developed after Action Comics No. 1 are not part of the copyrights that the plaintiffs have recaptured and therefore remain solely owned by DC Comics."
The Shuster estate originally did not participate with the Siegels' case because Shuster has no spouse or children. But his estate later won a ruling of a recapture identical to the Siegels, which will be effective in 2013. At that point, the Siegels and Shusters will own the entire copyright to Action Comics No. 1. That will give them the chance to set up Superman pics, TV shows and other projects at another studio.
If they want to get a new "Superman" or even "Justice League" pic featuring the superhero, Warner Bros. and DC will be forced to go into production by 2011.
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