Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Superboy lawsuit update, Dec. 2007 edition (updated)

Time for another update on the Superboy lawsuit. Last time, back in September, we found out (via Trexfiles) that the Superman lawsuit - argued by the heirs of Jerry Siegel that the rights to Superman should revert to them - was going to be sent to trial in late January, with the Superboy lawsuit - who owns Superboy? - following in the same court shortly thereafter.

The Trexfiles has a new update with copies of a couple of the court documents. Due to a number of factors (which you can read about here, but it's eye-glazing-over stuff about financial record keeping and how the Siegels haven't been given full access to DC's books), the Superman trial (Case No. CV 04-8400) is apparently set to begin May 15, 2008 with the Superboy trial (Case No. CV 04-8776) following.

I'm sure there are some lawyers out there - what happens at each of these events?

Jury Instructions: March 31, 2008
Objections to Jury Instructions: April 7, 2008
Hearing on Motions in Limine: April 14, 2008, at 1:30 p.m.
Final Pre-Trial Conference: April 28, 2008, at 11:00 a.m.
Trial Briefs: May 5, 2008
Trial of Case No. CV 04-8400: May 13, 2008, at 9:30 a.m.
Trial of Case No. CV 04-8776: Thereafter, as set by Court

One of the documents on the Trexfiles page contains financial information and requests for it. The Legion cartoon is mentioned by name several times, in passing as one of several TV shows to feature Superman or Superboy whose finances are being requested (see pages 43, 77, 91, 120, 127, 136, 146, 194, and 207).

Click on the "Superboy lawsuit" tab at the top of this page for previous installments on the lawsuits, in particular the most recent one with the Newsarama links if you're interested in the details behind both lawsuits, and the August one with a discussion of the previous legal documents.



Update 8:45pm: There's a lot of discussion in the comments section at Blog@Newsarama. I'm still surprised that people are condemning the Siegels for being greedy, trying to take what isn't theirs. It's just the opposite - Congress gave them the right to reclaim the copyright (but NOT the trademark, which DC owns) when they changed the copyright laws, in order to make up for past injustices to all copyright owners. An astute comment from Thomas Strand:
The Federal law of this country allows them and has granted them the right to return the copyrights to the rightful owners during a specific window in time, because any and all contract that were signed back during the time Superman was…. would have already become public domain.

DC should not even have a Superman copyright, because the contract they originally signed only allowed a one time extension.

The family’s are simply filing the paper work to get the copyrights back, since the contracts that were originally signed have a built in, Federally mandated time limit.

This is not a ‘fight’, this is basically the same thing as you filing paperwork for money the IRS forgot to give you last year.

The only issue here, is this is the first time those parts of the ‘revised’ copyright code have been tested in court, and from the judgments handed out during these cases, you can expect US copyright law to be changed forever.

Something else to think about... when the Legion cartoon was announced, it was supposed to be Superboy and the Legion. When the Superboy lawsuit came out in 2006, they changed it to be "the young Superman". But ironically, that put it under the Superman family of TV shows, so now the financial statements from the show are a part of the Superman lawsuit.

3 comments:

Patrick C said...

We'll be lucky to get to the Superboy lawsuit anytime in 2008. I'm not a lawyer, but I am a third year law student, so I have some idea of what these events are. (In theory, if not in practice).

The Jury Instructions and Objections period consists of the Lawyers submitting their proposed wording for the Jury Instructions, and the Court deciding which to use. Objections are for either party wanting to add an additional instruction, or omitting one or more.

Motions in Limine are meant to exclude evidence which would severely bias the jury.

The rest of the time is for writing briefs and finalizing any strategy.

Based on the Order the Court released in August, it seems likely that DC will reclaim the rights to Superboy, but that won't happen until the Court hears arguments on whether Superboy is a derivative work of Superman.

Michael said...

Here's a comment from Matthew Heslin that didn't make it here for some reason, with some more explanation:

Jury Instructions: March 31, 2008
Both sides get to submit patterned instructions to the jury which will advise and recommend ways to them on how to consider the evidence. Usually, jury instructions just give the letter of the law to jury members, so they won't go outside their alloted role in the process.

Objections to Jury Instructions: April 7, 2008
Sometimes one side's jury instructions will go too far, or misstate the law, or mislead jurors in some way. Each side has the opportunity to explain to the judge why the other side's instructions are not proper or suitable.

Hearing on Motions in Limine: April 14, 2008, at 1:30 p.m.
Procedural or evidentiary motions involving the pre-trial phase can be raised at any time - this hearing allows for those motions to be raised, discussed, or argued. Mainly deals with what evidence may be introduced, or the way it may be introduced.

Final Pre-Trial Conference: April 28, 2008, at 11:00 a.m.
A last chance for peace before we go to war. This can either be a meeting to get all the pre-trial work done and out of the way, or a mandatory effort at settlement, depending on the judge and the jurisdiction. Either way, this wraps up the preliminaries and marks the beginning of the actual trial.

Trial Briefs: May 5, 2008
Each side's counsel submits a document to the court explaining the legal theory of their case. The Siegel heirs would cite the laws and cases that support their reversion theory, and DC/Time Warner would cite the laws and cases that support their continued ownership of the property. Each side also offers arguments against their opponent. An argument not included in a brief may not be considered by the judge (not always true, but you hear stories about judges telling losing attorneys after the fact that they should have argued such and such).

Trial of Case No. CV 04-8400: May 13, 2008, at 9:30 a.m.
Trial of Case No. CV 04-8776: Thereafter, as set by Court
Evidence, testimony, jurors, etc. The trial as seen in movies and TV.

hoshi-reed said...

How it is an injustice when DC has paid again and again. 100K in 1947 and 20K yearly (increased to 30K) since 1975 for basically a declaration that the current copyright laws are effective? By accepting payment they basically agreed TWICE that they don't own the rights and the current system was legal/just and claim injustice.