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Hollywood Docket: Outrage Over 'Ghost Rider' Settlement; Dueling 'Beauty and the Beasts'

A roundup of entertainment legal news.

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance Still - H 2011
Columbia Pictures

A week before the new Ghost Rider film comes out, Marvel Enterprises has struck a settlement with comic book author Gary Friedrich that has some fans of the motorcyclist superhero enraged.

Friedrich was instrumental in crafting the Ghost Rider character in the 1970s and has spent the last few years fighting Marvel over rights. In December, a federal judge rejected arguments that Friedrich held on to non-comic derivative versions of the work. But one dispute wasn't over. As part of the ongoing conflict, Marvel had countersued Friedrich for selling Ghost Rider posters, T-shirts and cards.

Earlier this week, the parties entered into a stipulated agreement to end that lawsuit whereby Friedrich pays Marvel $17,000 and is permanently enjoined from using the characters in Ghost Rider

The agreement is being interpreted in some sectors of the fanboy community as Friedrich having to renounce his creator credit, which has sparked some outrage on message boards, including a few who say they won't go see the new movie, and prompted a Facebook page in support of the comic book author.

In other entertainment law news:

  • Both ABC and The CW have TV shows in the works titled, Beauty and the Beast, so which network is the trademark beauty and which network is the trademark beast? Not so simple, notes TV Guide. ABC's show is said to be based on the fairy tale that became a Disney film, and CW's version is supposed to be based on a 1980s CBS series. When Disney tried to trademark its earlier film, it was reportedly rejected because it "represents a well-known fairy tale that is in the public domain." It might be legally permissible for both to use the title, but some lawyers believe that a deal is likely to be brokered if both pilots are picked up to series.
  • Speaking of trademarks, more than a month after Jay-Z and Beyonce had a child, Blue Ivy, the name is still sparking fascination. At the end of January, Beyonce's company BGK Trademark Holdings filed for a registration on "Blue Ivy Carter." The trademark would cover everything from sound recordings to tablet PCs to tote bags to footwear. A business in the making? They aren't the first. After the baby was born, one NY designer attempted to register the name and got a preliminary rejection from the Trademark Office. On the other hand, one clothing boutique in Wisconsin got approval on "Blue Ivy" in August 2011, a few months before the child's birth. Now, that's foresight.
  • In past years, the Super Bowl has led to all sorts of lawsuits over the commercials. Lindsay Lohan's beef with eTrade over a "milkaholic" baby is the most famous example, but there have been others. So far, no litigation stemming from last week's Super Bowl has been filed just yet, but there is a leading contender. Remember that commercial with John Stamos refusing to share his yogurt? Apparently, the yogurt company didn't get a license to use the commercial's music from the Australian band who created it.
  • We've covered the top 5 ways that reality shows can be sued, but who could have ever predicted the following? In 2008, an equipment driver for VH1's Rock of Love crashed on an Illinois highway after falling asleep at the wheel. He later tested positive for drugs and was found to have no valid driver's license. Several people were injured, including one couple who later settled for $16 million a lawsuit against MTV, VH-1, and 51 Minds Entertaiment. OK, that lawsuit made sense. But what about the resulting traffic jam, which four hours later and more than four miles away caused another crash? Yes, the injured people from that crash also sued VH-1, alleging the network was legally responsible for what happened. On Thursday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that theory. According to the decision: "To allow this case to continue beyond summary judgment opens the door to endless liability, such that the first wrongdoer in a high-way accident will forever be liable to all other drivers that follow."

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner