Warner Bros., which owns DC Comics, has won complete control over the Superman copyright after a long legal battle. The win came on Thursday from a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Interestingly, Warner Bros. may have the Winklevoss Twins to thank, indirectly.
Back in 2008, heirs of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of the character, were granted Superman’s copyright, but Warner Bros. appealed, because the company said they reached an agreement with said heirs seven years earlier. The heirs, however claimed that the deal was never finalized.
Comics culture site The Beat ran an article back in March from attorney Jeff Trexler, who discussed the Facebook/Winklevoss aspect fo this case:
Here DC’s legal team rips a virtual page from the playbook used by Facebook in defending itself against the Winklevoss twins, who claimed that Mark Zuckerberg had stolen their online platform. In the Facebook case, the Winklevoss twins repudiated a summary agreement of terms before a long-form agreement was finalized. The Ninth Circuit, however, ruled that the summary term sheet was enforceable, thereby bringing this lengthy litigation to an end.
Directly citing the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning in the Facebook case, DC begins its brief by asking the court to enforce the settlement term sheet agreed upon by DC and the Siegels before Marc Toberoff and Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel persuaded the heirs to fire their original lawyer. If the one-page term sheet in the Facebook case was enforceable, DC argues, surely the six-page term sheet in the Siegel case was a sufficient expression of the agreed-upon material terms. Time Warner also echoes the language of the court’s ruling — for example, TW’s assertion that “This long-running dispute should be brought to an end” is a direct callback to the conclusion of the Ninth Circuit’s Facebook opinion: “At some point, litigation must come to an end.”
Yes. As I discussed at greater length in this post, DC relied on the Facebook/Winklevoss twins case to argue that the term sheet in the Siegel – DC negotiations was binding. The court agreed–the crux of the judges’ Siegel ruling today is a discussion of the Facebook ruling and how it applies to the Siegel term sheet.
Trexler also told Wired, “It’s entirely possible that the court would have reached the same outcome without the Facebook ruling… Facebook made it practically inevitable.”
The Hollywood reporter has posted the full decision here.