Lawyer Jeff Trexler at Comicbeat explains how the the last few years at DC Comics changes to Superboy and Superman have been driven by the courtroom ebb and flow of lawsuits by the heirs of Siegel and Shuster to reclaim copyright to Superman.
In 2006, DC killed Superboy and the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane–the DCU versions of the Golden Age Siegel and Shuster originals. Not coincidentally, this story appeared as the Siegel heirs were prevailing in the first round of their effort to claim the Superboy copyright. After another judge vacated this ruling in 2007 and strongly suggested that the Siegels were not likely to become sole owners of the Superboy copyright, Superboy miraculously came back to life.
Cosmic book news reports on Variety coverage of the Superman copyright lawsuit.
The heirs of Superman creators Siegel and Shuster should have and/or will soon have "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 families] 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.
According to Variety, the family also owns, due to a ruling in 2008 about Action Comics #1:
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.
So what is DC/Warner Bros left with?
Superman's ability to fly, the term kryptonite, the Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen characters, Superman's powers and expanded origins.
I have heard that DC/Warner Bros must change the costume by at least 20% to avoid the costume copyright. Therefore, Superman gets pants and another version with body armor.
The interpretations also seem to be that the Siegel and Shuster families will be able to start developing movies and other projects with the portions of copyright that they control starting in 2013.
Their version of Superman would seem to be legally restricted from developing the powers of flight. They would be forced to stay at the power levels of Action #1 and the first two weeks of strips. Although both parties would be free to create new works based on these separate versions. I think it would be perfectly possible the 1938 Superman to be made very interesting and vibrant franchise.
There is also a new Superman Warner Brothers movie for 2013 where he has a darker costume. It appears to be changes for the sake of getting past the copyright.
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