Marvel prevails in Ghost Rider ownership dispute

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Marvel Sotlight Ghost Rider Marvel prevails in Ghost Rider ownership dispute
Marvel has won a four-year legal battle over who owns the rights to Ghost Rider. On Wednesday a judge rejected the claim by writer Gary Friedrich, who co-created the character in 1972’s MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #5 along with Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog.

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.

Forrest said her finding made it unnecessary to “travel down the rabbit hole” to decide whether the character was created separate and apart from Marvel, whether the company hired Friedrich to create the character and whether he had thoughts about what rights he wanted to retain from the outset.

She said he also signed an agreement with Marvel in 1978 relinquishing rights in exchange for the possibility of additional future freelance work. He had worked for Marvel prior to that year as both an employee and as a freelance writer.

Well, that’s that, boys and girls. Just as a reminder:

WORK FOR HIRE IS BAD.

More seriously, although Friedrich’s lawyer intends to appeal, the New York courts have generally been seen as more friendly to company rights in all of these decisions — one of the reasons why Marvel/Disney is eager to keep the Kirby case in a New York court.

And sure, work for hire can pay the bills, but just know what you’re getting into. In 1972 Friedrich had no choice but to sign those vouchers. Nowadays, it’s not as simple for either side.

The suit was filed when the 2007 Ghost Rider movie starring Nicolas Cage was released. The first movie didn’t ‘set the box office on fire (tee hee) but it did well enough to spawn a sequel, due next year and featuring a fire-urine spraying Johnny Blaze.

Comments

  1. Kid Kyoto says:

    “WORK FOR HIRE IS BAD.”

    I wouldn’t go that far, now a system where a few companies control all the distribution channels so creators have no option but to do work for hire, that’s bad.

    But so long as there are options out there and people know what they are doing it’s hard to get worked up about it.

  2. Steve Flack says:

    Work for hire is not bad.

    What’s bad is not reading your contracts and making sure you are not surrendering all of your rights. There’s nothing wrong with parting with your creations as long as you know that is what you are doing.

  3. Aaron Poehler says:

    That seems an oversimplification. A recent and extremely relevant counterpoint:
    http://srbissette.com/?p=13933
    “If you had told the Bissette of 1990 that he’d never see a dime on any work done with Alan save the work-for-hire collaborative ventures we’d already put behind us by 1990, the Bissette of 1990 would have laughed and spit and ranted about the evils of work-for-hire.”

  4. DJ Coffman says:

    Regardless of work for hire contracts, Marvel knows who created what and they make millions from these properties, ethically they could win a lot p respect by paying the creators some sort of bonus. It would mean very little to their empires, but change the lives of the creators. That goes for Disney, Dc, Marvel, etc.
    It’s no wonder nobody wants to create anything NEW for these companies and they just have to keep rehashing the same characters over and over.
    PS: if it hadnt of been for Jack Kirby, Marvel literally would never have been around today, he physically stopped them from closing the doors one day and brought forth from his own mind pitches that kept them alive and spawned a whole new industry within comics.

    We shouldn’t be shitting on our forefathers of comics, we should be showering them with love AND money while they are still with us. Unfortunately the only one that seems to be true for these days is the original huckster, Stan Lee. Fuckkkkkkkked up.

  5. Maverickman874 says:

    “but it did well enough to spawn a sequel, due next year and featuring a fire-urine spraying Johnny Blaze.”

    While the First Ghost Rider didn’t lose money, the sequel solely exists so that Columbia Pictures/ Sony don’t lose the movie rights to GR, which they would if the movie didn’t enter into production within a specific time frame. So the movie was fast tracked and shot on the cheap in Eastern Europe.

    If early reactions are anything to go by, the movie seems to a piece of shit, which can’t be too surprising since it was made for all the wrong reasons.

  6. The message isn’t that work-for-pay is wrong. It’s that you shouldn’t create something new for the company when doing work-for-pay, but instead just work with existing properties.

    I am exceedingly glad my friend Bill talked me out of trying to sell a character concept to Marvel back 20 years ago. While I doubt they’d have accepted it… it’s still nice to be using these characters in current novel ideas rather than worrying about a copyright dispute with Marvel.

  7. Wonder who owns the rights for Gary Friedrich’s Ghost Rider predecessor…
    Hell-Rider?
    Link here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell-Rider

    Hell-Rider could make a great film, and well…maybe Gary could write it. Seems a total waste for Marvel to just shove Gary under the rug as “a writer of Ghost Rider” as the Associated Press referred to him today (12/30/2011). Even a simplistic proper crediting in the new film and a token payment of say…$100,000 (peanuts for any film studio in these recession times) would BUY Marvel better press than what they are getting currently.

    Gary’s not a rich man, but he has his pride and it would be RESPECTFUL to at least offer him a creative bone. Two films from Marvel and a middle finger is not RESPECT.

    He deserves better.

  8. @DJ Coffman

    Off topic : but I read on comicsbeat that DC does pay its creators for any characters they’ve created, although it’s not shared ownership.

    Chris Duffy says it better in this post (he’s the 29th or so comment)

    http://www.comicsbeat.com/2011/08/01/steve-bissette-calls-for-marvel-boycott-over-their-treatment-of-jack-kirby/

  9. Jim Harris says:

    I just saw that Ploog is back on Kickstarter:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1024705139/goliath

    Cool video of him painting in time-lapse

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