Judge: Marvel owns Ghost Rider rights

Court rejects writer's claim to character

A federal court judge has rejected a comicbook author’s claim to the character Ghost Rider, ruling that it was clear that Marvel Comics had the rights to the superhero.

In a ruling issued on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest granted summary judgment to Marvel after concluding that, even though Gary Friedrich conceived and wrote the first comic book that introduced the character in 1972, he conveyed rights to the character by endorsing checks from Marvel and by signing a 1978 agreement that “effectively ended any remaining ownership claims” he may have had.

Friedrich has been pursuing the rights to the character since 2004, as plans were in the works for a movie adaptation eventually released in 2007 and starring Nicolas Cage. A sequel is in the works for release next year. He had argued that he retained rights because he did some of his work as a freelancer, and that even though he signed over rights to the character, he did not sign over the rights to non-comic book use in films, TV and merchandising.

But Forrest rejected those arguments. She said that she didn’t have to “travel down the rabbit hole” of whether the work was made “for hire” or separate from Marvel. She noted that his freelance checks contained a legend on the back noting that by endorsing them, Marvel retained the character rights.

“The law is clear that when an individual endorses a check subject to a condition, he accepts that condition,” Forrest wrote.

She also said that the 1978 agreement “undoubtedly conveyed whatever renewal rights he may have retained, if any.”

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