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.


The Seditionist said...

Work for hire is a bitch but by the 70s there's no reason for anyone in the business not to comprehend the downside of WFH. And if corporations behaved morally, Darvel would be engaged in sharing some wealth with the Kirby estate. I'd like they may someday but unfortunately legal issues have to be resolved first, including, I guess, the ultimate dismissal of the Kirbys' suit. (Read the decision in the Siegel case; the Kirbys have nothing to support their claim -- I mean nothing of legally probative value.)

Esteban Pedreros said...

I doubt I'll be reading the actual ruling, but it seems ulikely that Friedrich may have settled with Marvel under the table.

Not because it may be inmoral or whatnot, but because there wasn't a withdrawal of the lawsuit, but a ruling by the court. Why would Marvel pay him anything? out of the goodness of their hearts?

Rodrigo Baeza said...

I agree, I heard the rumor (when I was writing the post) from a fairly reliable source, but it seems that there have been no out-of-court settlements.

Unknown said...

This is a false report. I am one of the lawyers for Gary Friedrich. He has NOT lost his lawsuit. The ruling was only that certain claims under state law should not go forward because federal copyright law is the only law that applies. The federal copyright part of the lawsuit -- always the main claim -- continues and we are confident of our ultimate success for Gary. Keep the faith.

Charles Kramer
Riezman Berger, PC
St Louis, Missouri

Unknown said...

You have posted a false report. Gary has NOT lost his lawsuit against Marvel. I am one of his lawyers in the lawsuit. The ruling was just that certain claims under state laws should not proceed because Federal copyright law is the only law that applies. The federal copyright law part of the case -- always the main part of the case -- continues and we remain very confident in our ultimate success for Gary. Keep the faith.

Charles S Kramer
Riezman Berger PC
St Louis, Missouri