Ghost Rider Creator Loses Legal Battle Against Marvel

By David Wharton 2011-12-30 15:34:38discussion comments
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Given most of the mediocre reviews, you wouldn't think anybody would want to take credit for creating Marvel's flame-headed spirit of vengeance, Ghost Rider. Until you take a look at the box office and realize the first film brought in $220 million worldwide, which is why we're getting a sequel this February. One fellow who wanted a piece of that pie was writer Gary Friedrich, who created the modern version of Ghost Rider -- complete with flaming skull and motorcycle -- while freelancing for Marvel back in 1972. He sued Marvel in April 2007, leading up the release of the first film, and that suit has finally reached its resolution. It's not good news for Gary.

Friedrich claimed that he held the rights to the Ghost Rider character (which replaced Marvel's original character of the same name, a "cowboy-style character" from Marvel's comics in the '50s and '60s). He also said he owned the rights to any Ghost Rider merchandise. According to The Wrap, a U.S. District Court judge in New York has shot all that down and ruled that Friedrich does not have rights to the Ghost Rider character.

It basically comes down to the fact that Friedrich was freelancing for Marvel at the time, so while he did create this incarnation of Ghost Rider, he did so specifically for, and while under the employ of, Marvel Comics. Judge Katherine B. Forrest said that Friedrich was working for Marvel in a "work-for-hire" capacity, and that Friedrich "conveyed by contract to Marvel all rights" to the Ghost Rider character, both when he originally created him and when he signed a new contract with Marvel in 1978. Forrest continues:
Friedrich concedes that he had read the 1978 Agreement when he signed it, that he discussed it with other freelancers -- in particular, the topic of relinquishing rights which they may have had in exchange for the possibility of additional work -- and that he understood its import.

Unsurprisingly, there are reports that Friedrich plans to appeal the ruling.
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