After months of discussions, DC Comics, a unit of Time Warner’s Warner Bros., filed a lawsuit today against Los Angeles-based attorney Marc Toberoff in an attempt to protect rights to its lucrative “Superman” property.
Warner Bros. filed the suit in federal court in Los Angeles after months of trying and failing to settle with heirs of the “Superman” creators, whom Toberoff represents. The media company recently retained O’Melveny & Myers’s Dan Petrocelli to assist on the case. Click here for a copy of the complaint.
In the suit, Warner Bros. alleges that, during their lifetimes, “Superman” co-creators Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster never attempted to terminate DC’s copyrights to the super hero and that their families agreed to lifetime compensation agreements. The suit alleges that Toberoff provoked the Siegel and Shuster families to repudiate those agreements, enter into new contracts with his companies, and seek to terminate DC’s “Superman” copyrights.
Apparently, the counter-suit notes that Toberoff sought a financial stake for himself in Superman by securing a portion of the families’ claims. This action exploits the “Superman” franchise “to the substantial detriment of DC Comics.” DC’s lawsuit calls Toberoff’s actions a “scheme” and alleges that they violate the U.S. Copyright Act and other laws “by trafficking in federal copyright interests and interfering with contractual rights and other interests.”
Personally, I’m not sure what all of this means, but it is certainly worth noting here, as whatever the results with surely ripple throughout the entire industry.