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.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.