Time Warner Inc., the world's largest media company, must share control of the Superman copyright with the heirs of the comic hero's creator, Jerome Siegel, a federal judge has ruled.
Siegel's widow, Joanne, and their daughter, Laura Larson, won back his half of the copyright to Superman material, under the order this week by U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson in Riverside.
Jerome Siegel and his creative partner, Joseph Shuster, granted the rights to DC Comics in 1938, a contract that expired in 1999, the judge found.
"After 70 years, Jerome Siegel's heirs regain what he granted so long ago -- the copyright in the Superman material that was published in Action Comics," Larson wrote in his order Wednesday. The victory was "no small feat indeed," he said.
Joanne Siegel's and Laura Larson's share of the profit must still be determined at trial, according to the order.
Marc Toberoff, the Siegels' lawyer, said Jerome Siegel fought for decades, without success, to share in the profit from the rights to his Superman character, which he sold with Shuster for $130. Jerome Siegel died in 1996.
"Joanne Siegel has courageously carried the torch in this matter for decades, and this is probably the first good news she has received regarding Superman in 70 years," Toberoff said.
Time Warner spokesmen Edward Adler and Keith Cocozza didn't immediately return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.