In a story from Variety Warner Bros. and DC Comics won a favorable ruling in the suit that was initially filed by the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel.
According to a decision that was put forth on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen G. Larson has decided that the license fees that the studio paid to DC Comics did not represent "sweetheart" deals "as they weren't below fair market value." Now the heirs will only be able to obtain profits from DC Comics -- which took in $13.6 million from Warner Bros. for the 2006 release of Superman Returns -- and not Warner Bros. as well.
"DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment are very gratified by the court's thorough and well-reasoned decision in this matter," the companies stated in a joint letter. "The decision validates what DC and Warner Bros. have maintained from the beginning, which is that when they do business with each other, they always strive for -- and achieve -- fair market value in their transactions. We are very pleased that the court found there was no merit to plaintiffs' position that the Superman deals were unfair to DC Comics and, by extension, the plaintiffs."
In addition to this the judge set Dec. 1 as a trial date for determining just how much the heirs would receive. Last year, they won a ruling from Larson that gave them about half the copyright for Superman material.
Initially, the heirs had claimed that Warners put together "sweetheart" deals with DC in 1999 for feature film rights and in 2000 for TV rights for Smallville. In the specifics of the deal, the feature film rights included $1.5 million paid upfront, "$18.5 million for option extensions over the course of 31 years and 5% of first-dollar worldwide distributor gross or 7.5% of domestic gross -- whichever was larger -- while the TV rights included $45,000 per episode, 3% of first-dollar gross for the first $1.5 million and 5% thereafter."
In Larson's 30 page ruling he stated that there was "insufficient evidence that the Superman film agreement between DC Comics and Warner Bros., whether judged by its direct economic terms or its indirect ones, was consummated at below its fair market value."
Also, "The Court pointedly ruled that if Warner Bros. does not start production on another Superman film by 2011, the Siegels will be able to sue to recover their damages," stated Marc Toberoff, the attorney who represents heirs Joanne Siegel and Laura Siegel Larson. "The Siegels look forward to the remainder of the case, which will determine how much defendants owe them for their exploitations of Superman."