Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Fine, Entertainment Conglomerate

... sees the light (or maybe the Jaws of Death.) In any event, WB ponies up.

Warner Bros. has settled a big part of a significant lawsuit that alleged the creators and executive producers of Smallville were cheated out of tens of millions of dollars through sweetheart license-fee deals that the studio made with its sister TV networks.

The Tollin/Robbins lawsuit from Smallville showrunners Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins seeking more than $100 million in damages was filed in March 2010, about a year before the long-running show about Superman's earthly upbringing ended after 10 lucrative seasons on the air.

The case touched upon a sensitive issue in Hollywood: so-called "vertical integration." The producers contended they were deprived of significant profits when WBTV allegedly undersold the series to affiliates the WB Network and then The CW instead of licensing the series to outside companies.

In August, a judge put the case on the path to a June trial.

... Judge Michael Johnson said there was enough in the pleadings to send it to a jury. In his ruling, he said the plaintiffs had demonstrated triable issues as to whether WBTV complied with obligations to conduct negotiations at various divisions in-house at arms-length and whether the producers' contracts included profit definitions that necessitated that money be collected at "fair market rates consistent with licenses granted by Warner to non-affiliates."

So apparently, the company was taking a bigger chunk of the swag than the showrunners were happy with. Also apparently, a court found the two had some compelling law and documents on their side, and Warners was sufficiently concerned that it -- as the court date came closer -- settled up with Mr. Tolling and Mr. Robbins.

(That "leverage" thingie again. But better a "sizable settlement" than a big jury award with monetary damages, I always say.)

Creators have few moral rights in The Land of the Free. That's for those Brie-eating Europeans, don't you know. Over here, it's "work for hire," first last and always. It's the rare creator who fights ... and wins ... against a corporate giant.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster are likely twirling in their graves. With happiness.


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