"Truth, Justice, and the American Way," the long-time slogan of Superman, possibly has a new meaning for the heirs of his co-creator, Jerome Siegel. A judge in Los Angeles has found that Siegel's estate is the proper owner of the copyright to the characters created in the first issue of Action Comics, which detailed the debut of Superman. Generally credited with jump-starting the comic book medium in 1938 and with being the first superhero, the Superman copyright has spent its 70-year career under the sole proprietorship of DC Comics, now owned by Time Warner.
In unusually concise language for a copyright decision, the judge concluded that, "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 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."
The scope of the ruling is limited to the contents of the first issue of Action Comics, does not address the pending litigation concerning the rights holder to Superboy, and does not address remuneration and other financial issues, but there's no doubt that this victory for the Siegel estate could have far-reaching effects for corporate copyright holders and those who've worked for them.