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Warner Wins a Round over Superman
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Seventy Four years ago, DC Comics, now owned by Warner Bros, had paid Siegel and Shuster $412 to acquire the rights of Superman, America’s iconic comic-book hero. Today, Warner Bros is in a fight to retain its rights over Superman.

A judge had previously ordered that the 50% interest of the heirs of Siegel in Superman should revert back to them. Now, Shuster’s heirs are being represented by Marc Toberoff, a known attorney, who hopes to take the rest of the 50% of Superman away from Warner Bros and back to the heirs of the original creator. In its critical legal fight to deny the rights of the heirs of the original creators of Superman, Warner Bros won a ruling on Tuesday that allowed it access to some confidential documents held by Marc Toberoff.

The presence of the documents that referred to a possible previous settlement talk between the heirs of Shuster and Warner Bros leaked out when there was a theft of the documents of Siegel and Shuster from Toberoff’s law firm office. To investigate the crime and help the law enforcement, Toberoff was forced to inform the US Attorney’s office about the documents which according to Toberoff were under attorney-client privilege.

  
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Toberoff told the media, “We are disappointed in today’s decision which holds that such cooperation with law enforcement by the victims of a privacy crime, itself waives privilege as to stolen documents. However, nothing in this ruling or the documents at issue will affect the merits of this case. We are considering our options as to the ruling, and will continue to vigorously defend our clients’ rights.”

However, Warner believes the documents, which include a cover letter by a previous attorney of the Shuster heirs threatening to testify that the heirs had previously made a settlement with the studio, would prove critical in its fight over Superman.

A Warner spokesman issued a statement mentioning on behalf of the company, “We are extremely pleased that the 9th Circuit unanimously found in our favor … The ruling means that defendant Marc Toberoff must now turn over critical evidence in the pending litigation against him and others.”

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The documents in question were sent by an attorney formerly working for Toberoff to Warner Bros. prior to June 2006.

In the long-running litigation over Superman, a U.S. district court had already held in 2009 that Warner Bros. had paid “fair market value” license fees to its corporate sibling DC Comics for the rights to Superman. While in 2008 it was decided that 50% of the royalties of Superman would go to the heirs of Seigel, in 2009 the question whether Warner Bros. had paid DC Comics fairly was settled.



In the earlier case, the Siegel heirs too were represented by Marc Toberoff.



 

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