Sony, Take-Two Sued by Ghost Rider Creator

Original Ghost Rider character creator Gary Friedrich has filed suit against Marvel Enterprises, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive, and numerous other companies involved in the creation and promotion of the recent Ghost Rider motion picture and video game adaptation. Friedrich currently owns the copyright to his creation despite his original 1971 agreement with Marvel (then Magazine Management Company) stipulating that the comic book publisher would own the work from the first issue forward. Marvel apparently never properly registered the Ghost Rider property with copyright authorities, and in 2001 Friedrich retained control of certain rights.

Friedrich claims that the companies named in his suit, including those listed above, "wrongfully embarked upon a high-profile campaign, arrangement, joint venture and conspiracy to exploit, profit from and utilize plaintiff's copyrights, the Johnny Blaze character and persona, the origin story and the related characters and personas created by plaintiff, in various endeavors." Among the alleged misuses of Friedrich's character are the film and Climax's corresponding video game (PS2, PSP, GBA) published by Take-Two label 2K Games.

Marvel has failed "to properly utilize and capitalize" on his creation, Friedrich claims. The publisher allegedly undervalued the property and collected lower than acceptable royalties from licensees such as Take-Two and Hasbro, which has created toys based on the Ghost Rider property and which was also named in the suit. Furthermore, Friedrich states that these licensees have used the property in an unauthorized manner in creating their related products.

The specific charges outlined in the suit are "copyright infringement, violations of federal and Illinois state unfair competition laws, negligence, waste, tortuous interference with prospective business expectancy, misappropriation of characters, unauthorized use of the characters and false advertising and endorsement," reports Reuters. Friedrich is seeking unspecified damages for the actions laid out in his 61-page document, filed last week.

The Ghost Rider film was released on February 16, 2007 and is reported to have grossed $214.6 million in worldwide box office. According to sales tracking firm NPD, Climax and 2K Games' Ghost Rider game, released February 13, 2007, took in $2.4 million in revenue in the United States during the month of February.