Since there wasn’t any internet or real entertainment reporting, the studio told them year after year that it wasn’t making much if any money on their shorts. Since the Stooges had a 1-year contract with renewal options at the end of each, the studio used that lie to keep the Stooges making little to any money. In 23 years with the studio, they never got a raise and never asked for one since they thought it would put them out of a job.
Also, I’m pretty sure the rights to their shorts went from Columbia Pictures to Screen Gems. I don’t think any of the Stooges ever had the rights to them. Even when war was raging throughout the world, the stooges could still give people a chuckle.