We slightly missed this one but it appears that a settlement was finally made by Marvel to veteran writer Gary Friedrich in the lawsuit over who owns the Ghost Rider rights. The case which was due to go court in November will no longer do so due to the settlement which was reported to have been met on Friday.
The dispute over Ghost Rider dates back several years and by all accounts is rather murky, With Friedrich, Mike Ploog and Roy Thomas all disputing who created the recognizable elements of Ghost Rider [Mainly the flaming skull and motorcycle].
Then in April 2007 after the Ghost Rider movie was released Freidrich brought suit against Marvel as well as Sony Pictures, Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures, Michael DeLuca Productions, Hasbro, Take-Two Interactive, Relativity Media and Crystal Sky Pictures who all stood to benefit financially from the release of the Ghost Rider movie. He claimed that the rights belonged to him as of 2001.
This original suit was concluded in Marvel’s favor due to documentation Friedrich had signed in the 70’s that relinquished certain rights to the character and that his work for the company was “work-for-hire” and therefore not his copyright. After which Marvel counter sued Freidrich and later agreed to drop the suit if their terms were met, a decision that caused much hostility from fans as Friedrich’s main source of income was selling Ghost Rider related merchandise at conventions which effectively came to an end as per the the terms of Marvel dropping the countersuit (in addition to this $17,000 in damages had to be paid by Freidrich to Marvel). Many felt this was detrimental to Marvel’s image as Freidrich was living on modest means so the loss of his main source of income and the damages he had to pay would have created some hardship on the writer.
That was until earlier this summer when the result of the original suit which ended in Marvel’s favor was overturned by Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin who said that the contracts signed in the 70’s had ambiguous language in them and hadn’t made Marvel’s intent clear so the date for November was made.
The details of the settlement are not known at this time, however as billion dollar franchises are now being made off the back off intellectual properties the trend for companies like Marvel and DC was to have furiously fought court action and not to settle. So does this set a new precedent for creators seeking remuneration?