If Michael Myers is currently riding high in anticipation of Blumhouse’s Halloween sequel, then the industry’s other long-standing movie monster, Jason Voorhees has struggled to catch a break.
That’s because the Friday the 13th franchise is currently on ice due to an ongoing legal battle involving Victor Miller and Sean Cunningham’s Horror Inc. It’s one which has gripped the horror community for months – if not years – though this past Monday brought a new twist in the saga: Friday the 13th: The Game, Gun Media and IllFonic’s acclaimed survival horror title, lost its DLC support due to this messy lawsuit.
And it is a messy lawsuit, one that requires a qualified lawyer to come in and lay everything straight. Thank the heavens that Part III star Larry “Shelly” Zerner has access to Twitter then (h/t Bloody Disgusting), as he’s now brought some much-needed clarity to the situation. The big takeaway? Stop pointing the finger of blame at Victor Miller.
I’ve seen a lot of people dragging Victor [Miller] online as if this is his fault. It’s not. The Copyright Act includes a provision that states that an author can terminate any transfer he or she has made after 35 years. Congress added this provision to allow creators (writers, songwriters, etc.) who sold their rights cheap to have a second chance. In the case of Victor Miller, he was originally paid about $9,500 for the original Friday the 13th script, which turned into 12 movies, a very successful video game and lots of Jason Voorhees merchandise. This franchise Victor helped create made hundreds of millions of $$$.
But Victor was not entitled to any of that money. Victor did what the Copyright Act allows him to do, he sent a notice of termination to Sean [Cunningham], giving Sean two years notice of the termination (which would occur in June 2018). The way it usually works in these cases is that the producer and the terminating writer will then have the two year period to work out a deal on how the money will be split on future projects (the termination does not affect movies already completed).
In closing, Zerner empathized with those fans frustrated by the lack of new Friday the 13th – be it a DLC pack for Gun Media’s survival horror title or a full-fledged movie reboot starring Jason Voorhees.
But Sean and Victor would need to make a deal because the termination only affects the Friday the 13th U.S. rights. Because of the quirks of copyright law, even after termination, Sean would still own the rights outside the U.S. But instead of making a deal, Sean sued Victor, claiming that the agreement that Victor signed in 1979 is not terminable. And the fact is that this is a very new area of law, so there is not a lot of guidance for judges on who is right.
Both sides have very capable lawyers who are arguing the case. One of the problems is that although both sides argued motions for summary judgment last October, the judge in the case still hasn’t ruled. This has really slowed things down. I’m sure that everyone involved believed that there would be a trial long before the termination occurred. I know it’s frustrating for the fans who want new movies and more content. But to blame it all on Victor is unfair.
If Myers can make a comeback in time for his 40th anniversary, then why not Voorhees? It’ll no doubt take some time before this Friday the 13th lawsuit is settled, but we’ll be bringing you all the latest update as the story develops.