Friday, June 4, 2010

Gary Friedrich loses Ghost Rider lawsuit

Back in 2007, Gary Friedrich sued Marvel and other companies for copyright infringement regarding the use of the Marvel character, Ghost Rider, in different media. Basically, he claimed that the copyright to the character and his first appearances had reverted to him in the year 2001. A check through recent filings reveals that Friedrich (or more accurately, "Gary Friedrich Enterprises, LLC", a Friedrich-created company to which he transferred his copyrights) has lost his lawsuit, since Marvel and the other defendants' motion to dismiss has been granted.

A year ago, Judge James C. Francis recommended the dismissal of Friedrich's claims (the link requires free registration), indicating that the 1976 Copyright Act (which specifies stricter terms regarding work-for-hire creations) should apply to this case, rather than the 1909 Copyright Act as Friedrich's lawyers had claimed (which would have presumably allowed Friedrich to renew the copyright 28 years after the character's original appearance in 1972).

A more recent filing by Judge Barbara S. Jones from last month confirms Judge Francis's "R&R" (Report and Recommendation), dismissing Friedrich's objections to it:

"For the following reasons, the Court adopts the R&R, overrules Plaintiffs' Objections, and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss."

An examination of the actual legal reasoning behind this decision is frankly beyond my ability. Unlike the documents related to the Siegel family's claims to the Superman copyrights, these documents don't reveal any details about how specific comic-book industries conducted their business or interacted with creators. Marvel and the film, toy, and gaming companies involved in the lawsuit were able to dismiss the suit without there being any need for the judges to go into this detail.

All of the above is very disappointing for those of us who would like to see creators like Friedrich get a fairer share of the profits generated by their creations. There are rumors indicating that Friedrich may have settled out of court; I hope that's the case but I'm not very optimistic.