Judge rules for release of ‘Superman’ documents

DC Comics seeks material in case against attorney

DC Comics could gain access to a trove of documents that it claims bolsters its case against Marc Toberoff, the attorney representing the heirs to the creators of “Superman” who have so far been successful in winning back some of the rights to the Man of Steel.

A federal magistrate judge ruled Wednesday that the documents were not protected by attorney-client privilege but put the decision on hold until Toberoff and his attorneys can seek a decision from district court Judge Otis Wright.

In a suit filed last year, DC Comics, a division of Warner Bros., charged that Toberoff poisoned its relationships with the heirs to Superman co-creators Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster in an attempt to gain his own control over ownership of the character’s copyrights.

DC Comics included in its suit an unsigned document, the “Superman-Marc Toberoff Timeline,” that makes reference to documents detailing Toberoff’s business practices and interactions with his clients. But Toberoff says that, as he was in the midst of litigation with DC Comics over Superman, the documents were stolen from his office in 2006 by a former attorney and then delivered to Warner Bros.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky said Toberoff “waived the privileges” when he turned in the documents last year in response to a grand jury subpeona, issued after Toberoff met with reps at the U.S. Attorney’s office to discuss an investigation of the theft. Toberoff’s attorneys say that they have an agreement with government that the documents would be “maintained as strictly confidential.”

Toberoff has been representing the creators’ heirs as they exercise a portion of the 1976 Copyright Act that allows authors to reclaim copyrights to their creations if certain conditions are met. In a counteraction, he’s seeking to have the DC Comics suit against him dismissed and has called it a “desperate and cynical strategy” to distract from their claims.