Friday, March 28, 2008

Truth, Justice, Finally

Via Heidi MacDonald's The Beat: Earlier this week a judge awarded the heirs of Jerry Siegel copyright for material printed in the historic Action Comics #1. Jeff Trexler's blog, Uncivil Society (which I think will quickly become required reading for me) has commentary and links aplenty.

Here's the meat of the decision:

After seventy years, Jerome Siegel’s heirs regain what he granted so long ago – the copyright in the Superman material that was published in Action Comics Vol. 1. What remains is an apportionment of profits, guided in some measure by the rulings contained in this Order, and a trial on whether to include the profits generated by DC Comics’ corporate sibling’s exploitation of the Superman copyright.

This corrects one of the greatest injustices in comics history. Siegel and his partner, Joe Schuster were paid $300 for the rights to Superman by National Publications, which later became DC Comics. They were kept on the book for a while, and found piece work on other publications. And then they were largely forgotten. Remember, this was a time when it was common for a creator's paycheck from a big publisher to have a work-made-for-hire agreement on the back. Which meant that in order to cash the check, an artist would have to sign over their creation to the publisher.

This decision is incomplete (the ruling judge specifies only Action Comics #1), but it is an important first step in the Siegls' fight.

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