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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Writer Loses ‘Ghost Rider’ Ownership Claim to Marvel

MANHATTAN (CN) - Comic book writer Gary Friedrich repeatedly signed away to Marvel Enterprises his rights to "Ghost Rider," and cannot sue Marvel for copyright infringement, a federal judge ruled.

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.

Blaze ultimately keeps his soul but acquires demonic powers that transform him into a fiery skeleton at nightfall. Readers follow Blaze as he tries to resist his dark impulses to use his powers for good.

Friedrich said that Marvel and dozens of other companies improperly used his storyline for an unauthorized film adaptation.

"Ghost Rider," a 2007 film starring Nicolas Cage, was a critical disappointment, but earned $228 million worldwide. A sequel is scheduled for release in February.

Last week U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest granted summary judgment to Marvel, in a 19-page order.

"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," the order states.

A different federal judge gave the green light to Marvel's counterclaimsagainst Friedrich in July.

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