UC Law SF Communications and Entertainment Journal


Sean McGilvray


Superman is one of the most enduring and widely-recognized fictional characters of all time. But behind the scenes of his colorful adventures, a bitter struggle raged between his original creators and the publisher who currently owns the copyright. In a historic recent decision, the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted a summary judgment declaring that the heirs of the writer had recaptured a portion of the copyright in Superman through the Copyright Act's termination and recapture tight provisions. While, not expressly premised upon moral rights considerations, the judgment reflects many of the core values of the moral rights conception of intellectual property. This note examines this decision in some detail, charting the history of the case and the ways in which it illustrates the natural tension between the utilitarian nature of American copyright law and the broader reach of the moral rights approach. Finally, it posits the desirability and persuasiveness of allowing some consideration of moral rights concerns in certain copyright disputes.