SAN FRANCISCO — Superman belongs to Warner Bros., according to the latest legal victory granting the film and television studio complete control of the lucrative Superman franchise.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled Thursday that the heirs of Superman's co-creator Jerome Siegel must abide by a 2001 letter written by the family's attorney accepting Warner Bros.' offer for their 50 percent share of Superman. Though the letter was never formalized into a contract, the appeals court said it was still binding.
“Statements from the attorneys for both parties establish that the parties had undertaken years of negotiations, that they had resolved the last outstanding point in the deal during a conversation on Oct. 15, 2001,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote.
The ruling Thursday undoes a 2008 trial court decision ordering Warner Bros. to share an undetermined amount of money earned since 1999 with the heirs, and to give the family control of key components of the Superman story. If that decision were to stand, the studio would have had to negotiate a new royalty agreement with the family.
“The court's decision paves the way for the Siegel family to receive the compensation they negotiated for and which DC has been prepared to pay for over a decade,” Warner Bros. said.