By Scott M. Hervey

On March 26, 2008, the District Court for the Central District of California issued an order closing one chapter to a long running battle between the heirs of one of the original creators of the iconic comic book superhero, Superman, and DC Comics. The court’s order addressed the heirs’ attempt to exercise their rights under the termination provision contained in the Copyright Act of 1976; a formalistic and complex statutory scheme which allows authors and their heirs to terminate a prior grant of copyright in a creation. 

At issue in the case was a 1938 grant (and other purported grants) by Jerome Siegel and his creative partner Joseph Shuster, of the copyright in the first edition of Superman published by DC Comics. The court’s order is a detailed 72 page ruling which devotes great consideration to the story behind the creation of Superman. As the court notes, “any discussion about the termination of the initial grant to the copyright in a work begins with the story of the creation of the work itself.”

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