‘Ghost Rider’ Rides On Without Creator Gary Friedrich
MANHATTAN – Comic book writer Gary Friedrich won’t be seeing any royalties or punitive damages from the copyright infringement he alleges Marvel Enterprises committed against him relative to his Faustian creation “Ghost Rider”. A federal judge ruled against him last week in a nineteen page summary judgment – meaning he can’t attempt to sue them again for this.
Friedrich sued Marvel in 2007, claiming there was no dispute that he conceived and wrote the Faustian storyline of “Ghost Rider,” in which motorcycle stunt-rider Johnny Blaze promises his soul to the devil in exchange for the life of his adoptive father, who is dying of cancer. Friedrich said that Marvel and dozens of other companies improperly used his storyline for an unauthorized film adaptation. Marvel countersued in July of this year, claiming Friedrich had violated their trademark by using a picture and description of the Ghost Rider on a poster.
It didn’t go well for Friedrich after that – as the judge saw it, Friedrich had repeatedly and unequivocally signed away his rights to the character and has no claim or title left to defend.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest granted the summary judgment to Marvel:
“This Court finds that there were at least two moments in time when Friedrich definitively conveyed by contract to Marvel all rights of whatever nature, including any renewal rights to the Character and the Work: (1) at the time of payment for the initial creation of the Character and Work in 1971 and 1972; and (2) in a separate contract signed in 1978 by Friedrich and Marvel Comics Group, a division of Cadence Industries Corporation …
“At the time Friedrich and Marvel Comics entered into the 1978 Agreement, the term ‘Marvel’ referred to, inter alia, Marvel Entertainment Group (a predecessor-in-interest to defendant Marvel Entertainment, Inc.). There is no triable issue of fact as to whether (a) in 1971, Friedrich conveyed any rights he may have had to both the Character and the Work to Marvel and (b) in 1978, he again conveyed to Marvel any rights he then had or could have in the future in the Character and the Work. Either one of those contractual transfers would be sufficient to resolve the question of ownership. Together, they provide redundancy to the answer that leaves no doubt as to its correctness.”
That, unfortunately for Friedrich, is that.
Nicolas Cage starred in the film “Ghost Rider” in 2007. The film didn’t wow the critics, but it earned a respectable $228 million worldwide. The sequel will be released in February of 2012.
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