You know that legal tussle between Warner Bros. and the estates of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster over the copyright to Supes? It’s getting uglier, and Warner Bros. just clinched a key victory in the fight.
The two sides have been fighting over the rights to the Man of Steel for more than a decade. Now it seems Warner Bros. could have the upper hand.
Warner Bros. is taking a shot at attorney Marc Toberoff, who was both representing Siegel’s estate and serving as a business partner—a somewhat shady move—and the opinion essentially agreed.
“Toberoff served as both a business advisor and an attorney for that venture,” the opinion states. “The ethical and professional concerns raised by Toberoff’s actions will likely occur to many readers, but they are not before this court.”
For those of us who don’t understand the dense legalese, Comics Beat resident legal guru Jeff Trexler has broken it down thusly:
“While the core of the decision is a technical aspect of procedural law pertaining to attorney-client privilege, the court’s opinion reinforces the central point of my most recent posts: namely, that by making Toberoff the target, Warner Brothers (WB) very well might be able to undo the Siegel heir’s historic courtroom victory,” Trexler wrote. “As you may recall, WB and its replacement outside counsel, Daniel Petrocelli, filed a lawsuit challenging the propriety of Toberoff’s representation of the Siegel heirs in their attempts to regain Superman-related material from the company. A key part of WB’s case was a set of documents regarding Toberoff’s dealings with the Siegel and Shuster heirs, which had been sent to DC executives by a whistleblower.”
That tidbit is, apparently, what the new ruling addresses. Trexler explains:
“Toberoff claimed the leaked documents were protected by attorney-client privilege and thus could not be part of WB’s evidence. However, Toberoff had provided these same documents to the U.S. Attorney’s office in its criminal investigation into the whistleblower’s alleged theft,” he wrote. “WB asked the court to give the company full access to the documents that Toberoff had given the government. According to WB, once these documents were supplied to the government, the attorney-client no longer applied.”
Attorneys for Warner Bros. are not surprisingly pretty psyched, and had this to say in a statement: “We are extremely pleased that the 9th Circuit unanimously found in our favor. The ruling means that defendant Mark Toberoff must now turn over critical evidence in the pending litigation against him and others.”