Who Owns The Rights To Ghost Rider?

from the just-wondering dept

tijir writes in with an interesting legal situation. A few months back there was a movie and video game based on the comic “Ghost Rider.” However, the creator of the original “Ghost Rider” comic idea claims that the copyrights reverted back to him in 2001 — and so he’s suing damn near everyone, from Marvel to Sony Pictures to Take Two Interactive to Hasbro for the products they’ve made based on the Ghost Rider concept. The article is a little short on the details concerning who owned what copyrights (and what they covered) and why there’s confusion over who actually owns them. However, it seems clear that Marvel believed it retained the copyrights that the creator insists reverted back to him. Also not explained (though you can probably guess why this happened) is why the guy waited until now — well after the movie and the video game were released — to file his complaint. It seems quite likely that he knew about the plans and production well before either product came to market. If it was really a concern, why not try to stop the production?


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Comments on “Who Owns The Rights To Ghost Rider?”

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23 Comments
Mike (profile) says:

Re: RE:If it was really a concern, why not try to

Because it is worth more now.

Well, obviously. That’s the point I was making. If he knows that his rights are being violated, doesn’t he have an obligation to mitigate the losses? The fact that he waited until it was worth so much more makes his claims a lot more questionable.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: RE:If it was really a concern, why not try

“The fact that he waited until it was worth so much more makes his claims a lot more questionable.”

Nothing about him waiting makes his claims “questionable”; it might have something to do with his motives but as has been stated here already, he’ll get a much more “fair” cut of what is rightfully his than what the execs would have offered had they approached him beforehand.

My question is why you would call it questionable knowing that individuals typically do not have groups of assistants monitoring each and every thing about their works like a corporation of Marvel/Sony’s size would. I have a million and one little programs I’ve written and released since the 90’s and if someone were to rewrite one and make a fortune, I’d probably have no idea for 10+ years down the road. Even my most popular, though not my biggest, program(a plugin for a popular 3d rendering program) isn’t big enough for me to worry if someone just make a cool million bucks from it without crediting or paying me for the commercial use of it. Seriously, I do most of it for my own pleasure but regardless once I’m no longer developing a project, I move back to enjoying my life which does not include the business aspect of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: RE:If it was really a concern, why not

Your most popular program I would assume has never had a multi-million dollar marketing blitz. That is the difference, this was on TV, the radio, all over the internet, in newspapers, etc. This is not something he would have had to find or stumble on, end of story.

Chris (user link) says:

He'll Lose

This has already been settled back in the 80s when Frank Miller sued Marvel when he left them and tried to take the character he created with him (Elektra). The basic ruling says he was paid to create for Marvel, and because of that Marvel owned the rights to the characters he created, Miller’s job being to create for them. The result of that case ended up in many creators leaving Marvel and DC to start their own company, Image comics. Image is most known to the mainstream world for Spawn and Witchblade, but the cool thing about them is that for all Image comics, the creators keep the rights to the characters. Ghost Rider (the original version actually was a western) as seen in the movie was created in the 70s well before ANY major comics publishers were giving any kind of rights to their creators (Marvel and DC still don’t, except in rare occasions like the Icons imprint). This guy’s lawsuit is just a shot in the dark really.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wouldn't the rights revert to the creator if they

No. You don’t have to “use” your copyrighted work to keep your rights to it.

Safely transferring or licensing copyrights requires a very specifically spelled out legal contract. Anything less is looking for trouble.

I’m not a lawyer but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night :)) and had to do a little research on the subject yesterday.

Sanguine Dream says:

Don't you have to defend

I thought you had to actively defend your copyright/trademark/patent or you run the risk of losing them. It’s safe to assume this guy knew about the Ghost Rider movie (and the game, toys, etx. to follow) several months ahead of time. I file this guy in the same category as those “companies” that patent a broad and obvious idea, don’t work on it, and then sue anyone and everyone that actually did work on what they patented. The NTP Effect at work.

Brad Eleven (profile) says:

I wish he *had* spoken up sooner

I thought the film was just barely okay. It had its moments, but it was pretty much a triple whopper with extra cheese, deep-fried in butter, then covered with cheese. Yeah, obviously he waited for the film and the merchandising to take place before he said anything–much less risk that way.

Maybe his creative input wouldn’t have helped, maybe it would even have stalled the production, since he seems the type to throw tantrums. At least he’d have put his ass on the line, and gained my respect. What’s that old Teddy Roosevelt quote about the glory going to the guy in the ring, drenched in sweat, covered with dirt? That’s the person I admire, the one that actually went for it.

Opportunists, meh, we have plenty of ’em, they’re boring, and they get what they deserve. IMHO, they’re barely a rung above lottery winners, and nearly as cursed.

Javarod says:

This may be related to Marvel’s mismanagement. The last major group basically gutted Marvel, selling off everything of value willy nilly and rather carelessly. One of the most famous examples is selling the rights to the character of Captain America to one group, and the rights to the Avengers (of whom CA is a founding and key member) to another group. It was only time until what they did returned to haunt Marvel again. As to who owns the original rights, one question has been overlooked, was the character created for Marvel, or sold to Marvel? The latter is rare, but it has happened IIRC.

Taliesin says:

He created the character’s johnny blaze and ghost rider in 1968, then 3 years later in 71 agreed to have it published by Marvel. However, Marvel never properly registered blaze or ghost rider as a copyright or trademark. So in 2001 he regained the copyright since he is the creator of said characters.

Basically, its going to get settled. He’s got his foot in the door, its not going to end up in court because all he really wants is the extra piece of pie for his creativity of the character.

Thomason says:

Looks like he-told-you-so

After reading the Freidrich complaint, one does wonder how this never got resolved before the movie, the toys, etc., were made and distributed. I suppose they negotiated unsuccessfully, both believing they held the copyrights, and Freidrich said if we don’t settle, I’ll sue you later -and now he has.
One oddity is that his copyright claim is based on the magazine defendants never filing the copyright registration form, and so Friedrich claims that after 28 years (1972-2000) their rights expired.
The levers under this one are pay-me-or-be-sued, and who-forgot-to-file-the-registration.

tijir (profile) says:

Heh

Quote from the article: “Friedrich alleges copyright infringement, and accuses Marvel of waste for failing “to properly utilize and capitalize” on the Ghost Rider character. Marvel’s attempts to do so, Friedrich claims, have only damaged the value of his work by failing to properly promote and protect the characters and by accepting inadequate royalties from co-defendants.”

What gets me, he seems to be saying part of the suit is for the damage this movie did to the value of Ghostrider. Do you think he is more pissed about the crappy movie or that everyone made money but him?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Heh

“Do you think he is more pissed about the crappy movie or that everyone made money but him?”

Ever read the original Ghost Rider runs? I’ve loved the character since I was a kid, but they are, generally-speaking, total cheese. The title’s relaunch in the 1990s had some great moments, but it was never an A-level title. Based on that, it has to be the latter. If anyone can make money on the title, the first guy who said “ok, take Evel K. …and now draw him with…HIS HEAD ON FIRE!” should… 😉

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