‘Superman’ Fight Rages

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As Warner Bros.’ big-budget reboot Superman: Man of Steel finally takes off with director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan, the long-running battle over the character is entering a new phase. The nasty dispute between Warners and the heirs of co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster stems from a 2008 court ruling that the Siegels are entitled to terminate the copyrights to some of Superman’s defining characteristics, such as his costume and origin story, as described in the first editions of Action Comics. Throughout years of legal maneuvers — including Warners’ still-pending suit against the heirs’ lawyer, Marc Toberoff, for interfering with contracts — it has not been determined whether the Shusters and Siegels can take back other key elements of the Superman mythology, such as Lex Luthor and Kryptonite. That makes it more difficult for Toberoff and his clients to peddle Superman rights to another studio (and pressure Warners into a settlement). So he’s now appealing the limited grant of rights to the 9th Circuit, hoping the court will finally determine who owns what. In the meantime, the clock is ticking on Warner Bros., which could lose certain rights to the character in 2013. The reboot is scheduled to hit theaters in 2012, but future films would be in jeopardy.