October 16, 2012

The Laura Siegel Brouhaha

Recently, there's been a lot of commentary made about the open letter Laura Siegel Larson wrote to fans about the continuing litigation against DC around the family's rights to Superman -  much of it from current, presumably younger fans about how "greedy" her family has been.

(And admittedly, I cannot honestly say that I haven't stirred the pot somewhat with my own comments).

Rather than repeat the usual argument - that Siegel and Shuster had no way of "knowing better" - let's look at this through a modern context.

First, with all of the excessive lawyers' fees that DC is paying, it would have been much easier (as Ms. Larson suggests) to simply pay the families of both creators. After all, it is not as if Siegel and Shuster's efforts did not pave the way for DC's success, nor is it wrong to suggest that any person who works hard and creates something profitable should benefit from those efforts.

Looking at DC's representation - and their efforts to discredit Larson's attorney - are more than slightly offensive; it borders on unethical. It is one thing to try the case in the "court of public opinion"; it is another to make claims that have very little basis in reality. I can understand DC's need to protect its copyright, but it smacks of stories about how lawyers walk through conventions and prevent artists from doing licensed characters as commissions. At some point, doing the right thing can be more advantageous than efforts to avoid doing the right thing.

And yes, more rabid fans drive the controversy home by pointing out the "greed" of both families - whatever their intentions (and despite my earlier comments, let's assume the best of those intentions), they have a legal right to make claim over the benefits of their forebears' efforts. After all, we have a presidential candidate who has benefited from being part of a powerful political family, a real estate mogul in New York who built his own empire on his father's financial successes....wouldn't it be fair and right for other families to benefit in a similar way?

My position is clear - Siegel and Shuster were the victims of slightly devious business practices, and although they received some compensation, DC had to essentially be shamed into doing the right thing. So my advice - both sides sit down, work out a reasonable agreement, let the court case go, and move on.

If that isn't truth, justice, and the American way, I have no idea what is.....

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