Gary Friedrich, the man who created the Ghost Rider character for Marvel Comics, lost his lawsuit against Marvel for a percentage of the proceeds his creation has generated over the years. Not only does Friedrich not get any of the Ghost Rider profits, he actually now owes money to Marvel and the other defendants in the case.
From 20th Century Danny Boy (via The Beat):
As per the courts instructions Friedrich has to account for any and all money that he has received, “…relating to the gross and net amount derived from Plaintiffs’ sale of goods bearing the Ghost Rider image, likeness, or Marvel trademark.” This means that Friedrich has to account for every cent each and every time he sold a print at a convention or any other item to anyone, that has the Ghost Rider image or name on it, and he has to account to all of the defendants in the case, and there’s quite a few of those, including, but not limited to, Marvel Defendants, Movie Defendants, Hasbro, Inc. and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. If the defendants don’t like, or don’t agree with, the numbers that Friedrich supplies then they can, and probably will, ask for a deposition whereby they can question him, under oath. It was no secret that Friedrich commissioned artists such as Herb Trimpe, Arthur Suydam and others to draw Ghost Rider images which were then sold as prints over the years. If you bought one thinking you were helping Gary, well, that cash will most likely end up in Marvels pockets. This amount will be factored into any damages that the defendants can claim from Friedrich, all of which will be bundled up neatly into a final judgement so the case can then proceed to the appeal stage.
Friedrich is far from the only comic book creator to sell unauthorized merchandise bearing the likeness of a licensed character. Go to any comic book convention and you will see a good many comic book artists creating commissioned sketches for fans bearing the likeness of characters they don’t own, for hundreds of dollars. It’s one of the reasons some people go to comic book conventions, fans and creators alike.
To the best of my knowledge, Friedrich is the first comic book creator asked to account for the profits generated off of unlicensed work. The question is, will he be the last?
I doubt it.