Superman Lawyer Claims Warner Bros. Lawsuit Is A SLAPP

from the slapp-back dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about the odd decision of Warner Bros. studio to personally sue Marc Toberoff, the lawyer who successfully represented the heirs of the creators of Superman to win back some of their copyright, by using copyright’s termination rules. Toberoff is making a career of this, and has been helping numerous other content creators start the process of reclaiming rights using the termination process — which makes him somewhat… disliked in the entertainment industry. Still, to sue him personally seemed quite extreme. As we noted at the time, the lawsuit seemed to be based on the idea that Toberoff is a jerk and a savvy business person. As we noted at the time, that doesn’t appear to be illegal.

Not surprisingly, Toberoff agrees, and he’s filed to dismiss the lawsuit under California’s anti-SLAPP law (one of the most comprehensive anti-SLAPP state laws), claiming that the entire lawsuit is just an attempt to shut him up. Matthew Belloni, at the link above, isn’t convinced this is a real SLAPP situation, but notes that it could make the case a lot more interesting, as Warner Bros., will likely have to prove its case much faster than planned. And, if Toberoff wins, he could also win legal fees and open up a stronger case for Toberoff to file a countersuit for “malicious prosecution.” If this goes according to Toberoff’s plan, Warner Bros. might regret this particular lawsuit even more than they regret losing some of the rights to Superman…

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Companies: warner bros.

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Comments on “Superman Lawyer Claims Warner Bros. Lawsuit Is A SLAPP”

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16 Comments
Ima Fishsays:

From what I read Warner Bros. sued Toberoff because Toberoff was taking advantage of content creators to file his lawsuits and get the proceeds of the copyrights himself.

Let’s assume that it’s true. Let’s assume that Toberoff was ripping off the content creators. Even if that is true, that does not give Warner Bros. standing to bring a lawsuit.

So as far as I’m concerned, Warner Bros. lawsuit fails on its face and should be dismissed.

Mattsays:

Re:

Wait, why not? Warner Bros. is harmed by the conduct, and it is an unfair and deceptive act or practice. If Toberoff’s clients are not actually receiving any benefit from the lawsuits at all then Warner Bros. has a case.

If the plaintiffs are merely knowingly getting a bad deal, Warner Bros. should probably lose. It still has standing – it can complain about another’s harmful breach of duty, even if the duty wasn’t owed to it – but here it will have no ability to prove the breach. The plaintiffs apparently thought it was a good enough deal to enter into it.

Apart from the pot-calling-the-kettle-black issue of the content industry complaining about the unfairness of copyright rules, Warner Bros. has a valid point here. I do not know if Toberoff is one, but unscrupulous lawyers have made an industry out of exploiting stupid IP law to benefit themselves at the expense of society (and sometimes their clients).

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