December 30, 2011

Marvel wins Ghost Rider lawsuit

It's called, I believe, "work for hire":

Comic book publisher Marvel Entertainment owns the rights to the Ghost Rider character in the fiery form that originated in the early 1970s, a federal judge ruled Wednesday as she rejected the claims of a former Marvel writer seeking to cash in on lucrative movie rights.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest tossed out 4-year-old claims brought by Gary Friedrich, who said he created the motorcycle-driving Ghost Rider with the skeletal head that sometimes had fire blazing from it. A Ghost Rider of the 1950s and '60s was a Western character who rode a horse.

The judge said Friedrich gave up all ownership rights when he signed checks containing language relinquishing all rights to the predecessor companies of Marvel Entertainment LLC.

"The law is clear that when an individual endorses a check subject to a condition, he accepts that condition," the judge wrote.

He (Friedrich) said he thought he had given Marvel the rights to use Ghost Rider in comic books, but that he retained the rights for movies and anything else.

"Was that understanding ever reduced to writing? Marvel attorney David Fleischer asked.

"No," Friedrich answered. (Link)

I know many a comic creator has [some] regrets about the 'ol "work for hire" stuff; this changed largely beginning in the 80s when writers/artists began staking out legal ways to get better compensation for characters they originated. For example, Delawarean David Michelinie apparently negotiated a way to get a small royalty from Marvel for anything sold related to the popular character Venom. Alas, as noted, Friedrich did his Ghost Rider work in the 1970s.

Posted by Hube at December 30, 2011 10:19 AM | TrackBack

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