Comics creator might get Ghost Rider rights back from Marvel after all

Contributed by
Jun 11, 2013

Could it be that the original creator of a comic-book character will actually regain control of their creation? 

We've talked about Gary Friedrich and his Marvel woes in the past. With the release of the Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider movie in 2007, Friedrich felt he was owed some of the profits as the creator of the character. Not only did he not win that lawsuit, but Marvel came after him for selling Ghost Rider prints and won. And while Marvel execs later denied that Friedrich had been fined, a bad taste had been left in the mouths of fans.

While the estates of Siegel and Schuster (let alone poor Jack Kirby) never had much luck in regaining the rights (or profits) to their characters, it seems, at long last, one creator might get some payback. Gary Friedrich is that creator.

So what happened? Why is lawyer Chris Kramer saying that Friedrich will be pursuing a case against Marvel "aggressively and vigorously"? Well, it's not because copyright law is particularly fair or equitable. In fact, it's practically blind luck that things have turned around.

A three-judge panel appeals court voted that Friedrich's agreement with Marvel was ambigious.

First, the critical sentence defining the 'Work' covered by the Agreement is ungrammatical and awkwardly phrased. Second, the language is ambiguous as to whether it covered a work published six years earlier.

The bottom line -- Marvel isn't entitled to the rights based on their initial arguments that a statute of limitation had expired.

We'd like to think those judges brought down their judgment with some amount of relish. But even if they didn't, even if this is just the happenstance over poorly worded language, it's still fantastic to know that maybe, just maybe, Gary Friedrich will get his due.

(via Tom Spurgeon)

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