Saturday, March 29, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

The New York Times reported today on the ruling in Los Angeles which said Jerry Siegel's heirs "were entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to the character" of Superman.

Now, it's possible that my knowledge of intellectual property is more defective than I think, but isn't the character of Superman a trademarked property, and individual Superman stories are copyrighted?

It seems to me that the judge has declared that Siegel retains copyright to the Superman materials in Action Comics #1, but is silent on the status of all later, copyrightable works, and also silent on the ownership of the Superman trademark. So this ruling, if I'm reading the reportage correctly, does not say that Siegel's heirs own anything other than the copyright on a single, seventy-year-old story. (More may come later, but that's what happened in this ruling.)


Balerion said...

This article at PubLaw discusses protections for graphical characters (there's also one discussing protections for fictional characters).

It cites plenty of cases where a specific character is found to be protected by copyright, and in particular mentions Superman as a character that courts have previously found is protected by copyright and not just by trademarks.

FS said...

Christopher Bird has a good write-up of What It All Means here.

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