The legal battle between Marvel Entertainment and comic book author Gary Friedrich has come to a close for now. On Wednesday, December 28, a U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled that the rights to the "Ghost Rider" character belong to Marvel and not the writer who dreamed the motorcycle-riding hero up.
In her ruling, Judge Katherine Forrest stated that Friedrich has relinquished his rights to "Ghost Rider" when he cashed checks from Marvel for the initial creation for the character. She additionally pointed out that the writer signed a second contract in 1978 that grants Marvel "all rights of any kind and nature in and to the Work."
With the findings, Forrest said it's unnecessary to "travel down the rabbit hole of whether the Character and Work were in fact originally created separate and apart from Marvel, whether they are a 'work for hire,' or whether during an initial conversation in which Friedrich obtained consent to proceed with the project that eventually became the Work, he had thoughts about what rights he might want to retain."
Friedrich began considering legal action against Marvel in 2004 when he learned that there were plans for new uses of the "Ghost Rider" character, including in movies. The first "Ghost Rider" movie starring Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes was released in February 2007.
Two months after the release of the movie, Friedrich filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Marvel in East St. Louis, Illinois, claiming he owned the character. He also argued that he owned the use of "Ghost Rider" in the films, as well as toys, video games and other merchandise. The lawsuit was later moved to New York.
A second "Ghost Rider" movie, "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance", will open wide the U.S. on February 17, 2012. Cage is reprising his role as Johnny Blaze a.k.a. the Ghost Rider with Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor serving as directors. In the sequel, Johnny finds himself being recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy from the devil.