Comic cover Many advocates of extending copyright and bringing the full weight of the legal system down on copyright infringers cite the need to protect content creators against the hordes of downloaders swapping material for free. Here’s an example (via) of how this works in practice:

After nearly five years of bitter and depressing legal back-and-forth only slightly ameliorated by the fact that it concerned a biker with a flaming skull, Marvel has won a lawsuit that forces Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich to stop identifying himself as “Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich,” simply because he is the creator of Ghost Rider.

This all started back in 2007 when Friedrich sued Marvel claiming that rights to the character had reverted back to him in 2001. Marvel responded by arguing that Friedrich had relinquished all rights when he cashed his paychecks, all of which were stamped with a bit of boilerplate legalese. Marvel then counter-sued Friedrich in 2010, seeking damages for all of the Ghost Rider prints and other merchandise Friedrich had sold at conventions.

As payback, not only can Friedrich no longer sell his own Ghost Rider merchandise, he can’t even represent himself as its co-creator, thereby robbing him of any potential financial gain he might accrue from convention appearances and the like. (He will, however, still be able to sign officially licensed Marvel merchandise, either with ink or bitter tear stains.) In addition, Marvel is also demanding $17,000 from the unemployed, financially destitute 68-year-old, which Comic Book Resources surmises will serve as a warning to all others who currently enjoy the privilege of selling their own unlicensed merchandise, and should maybe just keep their mouths shut then.

The problem with copyright, as it currently stands, is not that it is too weak or that random downloaders are destroying the entertainment industry. The problem with copyright is that it works to the benefit of distributors and against the interests of creators.

Copyright reform is long overdue.

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