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Warner Bros. can rest a bit easier today after the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of a challenge to its Superman rights.
The request for a hearing came from the estate of Superman co-creator Joseph Shuster, which attempted to exploit the termination provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act to reclaim their portion of the lucrative character.
In November 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that a 1992 agreement made by Jean Peavy, the sister of Shuster, precludes the estate’s attempt to terminate a copyright grant.
That agreement was executed in the aftermath of Shuster’s death, when Peavy wrote to Warner subsidiary DC and asked the company to pay her brother’s final debts and expenses. DC agreed and also increased survivor benefits, but the company’s executive vp at the time, Paul Levitz, admonished, “This agreement would represent the author/heir’s last and final deal with DC and would fully resolve any past, present or future claims against DC.”
As a result, a federal judge ruled, “the broad and all-encompassing language of the 1992 Agreement unmistakably operates to supersede all prior grants.”
The Shuster estate, represented by attorneys Marc Toberoff and ScotusBlog founder Tom Goldstein — the same pair that recently took a since settled case involving Marvel’s rights to the high court — looked to challenge the assessment.
The appellants’ brief posed the issue as “whether and under what circumstances may the Copyright Act’s inalienable termination right be eliminated by contract?”
But without much comment, the Supreme Court denied cert on Monday. The only thing that was noted was that Chief Justice John Roberts took no part in consideration. An explanation wasn’t given.
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