Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 11, 2013

Ghost Rider Copyright Trial Roars Back To Life


The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has apparently vacated a 2011 summary judgment ruling over the ownership of the Ghost Rider character and has breathed sudden and surprising new life into Gary Friedrich's case regarding the character. The initial wire stories cite the ambiguities of the 1978 contract signed by Friedrich and have targeted that contract for investigation at trial. That contract contained such phrasing as giving Marvel "forever all rights of any kind and nature in and to the Work." It looks like the judge Denny Chin is questioning whether to contract's non-explicit language speaks directly to renewal rights, and that this further buttressed by the displayed profitability of the characters and concepts in question by the time that contract was signed.

I think on first glance what surprises me is that you usually don't see summary judgments vacated because I've been told those are usually made from a position of extreme strength and confidence by the presiding judge. It always seems to me those are considered a bad loss when that's how a case is decided. A couple of other things pop into my head: 1) this could be an expression of why lawyers for creators want these things tried in California rather than in New York; 2) I've always felt this off-the-record resentment from some pros that while the language of the contracts wasn't clear people pretty much knew what they were getting into despite any protests to the contrary. Whether that is true or not, I couldn't tell you.
posted 12:20 am PST | Permalink

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