The creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich, has sued Marvel Enterprises, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and several other entities ripping off his copyrights to his comic book character on their way to turning it into a film.
Friedrich claims that what those entities did was an unauthorized “joint venture and conspiracy to exploit, profit from and utilize” his Ghost Rider character.
Friedrich and his company filed the 61 page complaint April 4 in federal court in Illinois. The complain claims 21 violations based on the production and marketing of Sony’s Ghost Rider, which stars Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes. Friedrich claims the copyrights used in the movie and related products reverted from Marvel to him in 2001.
Defendants in the case include Sony’s Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, producters Relativity Media, Michael De Luca Prods., and Crystal Sky Pictures, in addition to Take-Two Interactive and Hasbro Inc.
According to Friedrich, there was copyright infringement, and accuses Marvel of waste for failing “to properly utilize and capitalize” on the Ghost Rider character. He said that Marvel’s attempts to do so have damaged the value of his work by failing to properly promote and protect his character. He said this happened do to Marvel accepting inadequate royalties from some of the co-defendants.
Friedrich also claims that Hasbro and video game developer Take-Two Interactive have improperly created merchandise based on Ghost Rider.
Friedrich created the Johnny Blaze character and his alter ego Ghost Rider in 1968. He agreed to publish the character in comic books three years later through Stan Lee’s Magazine Management, which eventually became known as Marvel Entertainment.
The agreement had Magazine Management becoming holder of the first issue’s copyright, which explains the origin story of Ghost Rider. The company also held the copyright to following Ghost Rider works.
Magazine Management, however, allegedly never registered the work with the Copyright Office, which means that according to federal law the copyrights to Ghost Rider would have fallen back to Friedrich in 2001.
Ghost Rider opened in theaters February 16 in North America and has grossed about $214.6 million worldwide at the box office.
In his suit, Friedrich seeks unspecified damages for copyright infringement, violations of federal and Illinois state law, negligence, waste, tortuous interference with prospective business expectancy, and others.
A Sony spokesman said the studio had no comment yet on the suit.