Marvel Retains Rights to Ghost Rider in Lawsuit Settlement
Marvel has reached a settlement agreement in a long-running lawsuit filed by Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich over ownership of the character. While the settlement hasn't been fully executed, both sides, "have amicably agreed to resolve all claims." The terms of the settlement agreement were not made public at this time, with Marvel retaining the right to use the character in future projects.
Back in June, Gary Friedrich won an appeal over Marvel, overturning the comic book studio's victory and set up a trial slated to begin in November, before the settlement came through. Gary Friedrich worked as a freelancer for Marvel in the 1970s, creating the Ghost Rider character who first appeared in 1972's Marvel's Spotlight #5. The primary issue of the case was whether Friedrich contributed the character as a "work for hire," which would mean that Marvel retains all ownership rights and Friedrich would have no entitlement to the copyright renewal term. At the time, Friedrich was working under what was known as the "Marvel Method," and the studio argued the character was created in a collaborative environment with Marvel personnel and resources.
A federal judge ruled that the contracts Friedrich signed in the 1970s gave the company all rights to the character, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision in June, citing the contracts were ambiguous, particularly one from 1978 that covered the origin story he created six years earlier. However, the appellate judge didn't give Friedrich a full victory in June, stating that the author had an "uncopyrightable idea for a motorcycle-riding character" when he presented it to Marvel, because he had not, "fixed the idea to a tangible medium." The impending trial, which will be cancelled when the settlement is fully executed, would have likely explored the Marvel workplace in the 1970s, and a comic book author's stake in ownership under such conditions.
We reported in May that Marvel Studios had re-acquired the movie rights to the Ghost Rider franchise, although it isn't known if they are actively developing a reboot or another sequel. Nicolas Cage portrayed the title character in 2007's Ghost Rider and 2012's Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance.