Protecting The Artists? Disney's Marvel Uses Copyright To Crush Already Broke Ghost Rider Creator

from the how-nice dept

Five years ago, we wrote about Gary Friedrich, the creator of the comic book character Ghost Rider, and how he was suing tons of companies, claiming that the copyrights associated with Ghost Rider had reverted back to him in 2001. As we noted at the time, there were some questionable things about his lawsuit -- including the fact that he waited years until after a movie and video game had been created and released before suddenly going legal about it. However, apparently Marvel (owned by Disney), in its ultimate vindictiveness, turned around and countersued Friedrich and won, leading to a ridiculous situation: Friedrich, who is broke, is now supposed to pay Marvel $17,000 for Ghost Rider merchandise he had sold in the past. He also isn't supposed to say that he's the co-creator of Ghost Rider any more if saying so involves him getting any kind of commercial advantage.

The full ruling in the case makes it clear that Friedrich's copyright claims were suspect in the first place, as it appears he clearly handed over the copyrights on the character to Marvel. The legal stipulation covers the specific terms, including the $17k payment, and the injunction against using the words "Ghost Rider" in connection with the sale of any goods, merchandise or services (i.e., "pay to get the signature of the creator of Ghost Rider!").

While Friedrich appears to have clearly overreached in his initial claim, the vindictiveness of Marvel/Disney is pretty ridiculous here. There's simply no reason for the company to demand $17k from a broke Friedrich, and (on top of that) make it that much harder for him to actually earn the money to pay them. As some are pointing out, you should remember this story the next time big companies claim they want to strengthen copyright law to "protect the content creators."

Filed Under: artists, comics, copyright, gary friedrich, ghost rider
Companies: disney, marvel


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  1. identicon
    aikiwolfie, 13 Feb 2012 @ 12:54pm

    Selling Content Others Create And Keeping The Profits Is Their Business!

    I'm reluctant to vilify either Marvel or Disney on this one. Anybody getting into content creation really needs to know what they are getting into before they sign that contract. Complaining it's not fair afterwards is just too late.

    If you are paid to create content for a company like Marvel or Disney or any of the other large media corporations, it's likely your contract will stipulate anything you create while in their employment belongs to them. I had to agree to such a clause when I worked for IBM testing LCD displays and that didn't even involve "creating" anything beyond mundane test reports. It seems obvious Marvel or Disney would expect the same.

    Granted writers and artists will often work freelance or in some sort of partnership/financing/publishing deal. However the same rules apply. You have to keep your wits about you and make sure you know exactly what you are signing over. Clearly this guy didn't understand what he had signed over or just didn't care.

    The harsh outcome Marvel and Disney have perused is clearly a tactic to kill this guys claim dead. And indeed that's no different to the tactics being used the mobile patent wars. This is sadly how IP is fought over. If you push your luck too far it's an all or nothing game.

    I would however agree that large companies shouldn't make false claims with regard to their motives. Copyright minimalists are clearly not interested in the artists and content creators. The only thing that drives them is pure profit. But then again I don't see many people refusing to buy what they're selling.

    More of us will still consume mainstream Hollywood backed content than those who will go without or choose to only support independent film makers and musicians even though we know where the money really goes.

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