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Smallville creators sue Warner Bros. over licensing deals

by  in Comic News Comment

Smallville, the long-running television series that’s already part of the dispute between Warner Bros. and the Siegel family, is now at the center of another legal battle.

The Hollywood Reporter‘s legal blog, THR, Esq., reports that Smallville creators and longtime executive producers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, and series co-producer Tollin/Robbins Prods., have sued Warner Bros. Television, claiming the division made license-fee deals with The WB Television Network and its successor The CW Television Network that “were not arms-length.”

The lawsuit, filed on Friday, accuses Warner Bros. of licensing Smallville for broadcast on its co-owned WB and CW networks “for unreasonably low, below-market license fees, resulting in lower gross revenues for the series and less compensation for plaintiffs, and failing to renegotiate the series’ license fee to cover its production cost.” The plaintiffs also say Warner Bros. sold the series to foreign markets in a package with other, less-successful shows, resulting in a misallocation of licensing fees.

Although the complaint doesn’t specify damages, THR, Esq. notes that, “given the allegations and the longevity of the series, they could total in the tens of millions of dollars.”

The claim brings to mind one made in 2008 by the family of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, who accused DC Comics with striking a “sweetheart deal” with parent company Warner Bros. when licensing characters for Smallville and Superman Returns, a violation of the terms of their profit-sharing agreement. However, in July 2009, a judge ruled against the Siegels, determining that DC and Warner Bros. participated in a “fair market deal.”

Smallville, which debuted in 2001, was renewed earlier this month for a 10th season. Gough and Millar left the series in 2008 after seven seasons.