The widow and daughter of Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Superman, have legally recaptured the copyright to Superboy, the version of Superman as a boy living in Smallville. Now, let’s set aside the somewhat odd thought that Superboy is a separate copyright, not merely a derivative of Superman; strange as that may sound, that’s settled law, as the judge just reaffirmed an early court decision on the matter some six decades old.

Now, the folks at Time-Warner are faced with a charge of violating that copyright via their TV show Smallville, which they continued producing and airing since the Siegels’ now-validated recapture of the rights in November 2004. Their argument is going to hinge on Smallville not being a derivative of Superboy, apparently claiming that this is the story of someone who is becoming Superman, rather than the already-powered younger character that was Siegel’s Superboy. There will be some major roadblocks in that argument, I reckon, not the least of which is that the series relies on supporting cast from the Superboy comic book series (such as Lana Lang, who first appeared in Superboy issue 10.)

But what I’m being amused by is the thought of “what would a TV series derived from the Siegel copyright look like?” After all, the Siegel estate merely recaptured the copyright. They did not get the trademarks, which would cover such valuable things as the name “Superboy” and the distinctive Superman costume and chest logo. So they would need to do a TV series bereft of the common superhero name and the costume.

In other words, they’d have to do a series that sounds a lot like Smallville.

My apologies to anyone who has tried to access the blog today; as you probably have now sussed, I was indeed doing some work under the hood. You’ll probably see a few more minor changes over the next few days.

Published in: on April 11, 2006 at 1:16 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. testy test

  2. Hey, I like the new look (and strongly suspected there was some behind the scenes mucking about going on). Testing to see if I can still comment…

    I’d seen this info the other day in a SciFiWire item titled Smallville Faces Lawsuit, but since I don’t watch Smallville and am not familiar with Superboy, I just didn’t know what to make of it. I suspect that Smallville will probably finish its run before anything gets ruled upon.

    In unrelated Doctor Who (and Buffy) news this SciFiWire item, Who Brings Back Favorites, mentions that “…Davies promised a number of high-profile guest stars in season two, including Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in ‘School Reunion’…

  3. I expect there will be a financial settlement before there is a ruling. Certainly, the goal is not to stop Smallville, it’s to get cash. The Superboy and Superman copyrights are much more valuable in the hands of Time-Warner than in the hands of the Siegels. (Really, in sheer terms of capacity for exploitation on an ongoing basis, Superman and co. are about as valuable as they come. I mean, how many seasons of live-action TV has Clark given us, between the old black-and-white TV series, Lois & Clark, Superboy, and now Smallville. How many animated episodes, including all the Justice League-based series? And we’re about to get the fifth feature film, in addition to old serials.)

  4. I always thought that going so heavily into the Superman mythos so early was a bad mistake for Smallville. I would have revealed it much more slowly, and strictly limited the DC guest characters. Maybe this would have given them some legal protection too.

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