If Michael Myers is currently riding high in anticipation of David Gordon Green’s Halloween sequel, which arrives next month, then the industry’s other long-standing slasher, Jason Voorhees has struggled to catch a break in recent years.
That’s because the Friday the 13th franchise is on ice at the moment 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 a while now, while this summer it got even worse when we learned that not only were the films impacted, but Friday the 13th: The Game, Gun Media and IllFonic’s acclaimed survival horror title, lost its DLC support due to the messy lawsuit.
And it is a messy lawsuit, but at long last, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The battle isn’t over quite yet, but The Hollywood Reporter brings news tonight that Jason Voorhees may once again be seen on the big screen.
We won’t break down the entire lawsuit for you here, as it’s a bit of a complicated one, but here’s how THR outlines the situation:
Producers of the cult 1980 horror film including companies associated with Sean Cunningham filed suit more than a year ago after Miller aimed to take advantage of a provision of copyright law that allows authors to terminate a grant of rights and reclaim ownership 35 years after publishing. The producers alleged that Miller wrote Friday the 13th as a work-made-for-hire after Cunningham came up with an idea to capitalize on the success of the then-recently released horror film Halloween. They asserted that his termination notice was ineffective.
Miller disputed his screenplay was a work-made-for-hire, which under copyright law would mean that the producers authored the work and it wasn’t eligible for termination. His attorney Marc Toberoff argued that while the screenplay was clearly commissioned as part of a motion picture, there never was any writing instrument as required by law spelling out the screenplay was a work-made-for-hire.
The producers responded that not only did Cunningham conceive the idea, but he hired the team, obtained financing, controlled all creative decisions, and importantly, that Miller was a member of the Writers Guild of America, which used a standard form agreement that made clear Miller was an employee.
So, that brings us to this week, when “U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill granted summary judgment in favor of Miller and against the producers.” That’s certainly good news, and while the judge’s full opinion hasn’t been revealed yet, it’s no doubt a step in the right direction to Miller reclaiming the rights. Of course, that means we could see new Friday the 13th movies in the near future.
Now, as THR notes, there’s still the possibility that things could go wrong. For one, Miller may only get the US rights, while the producers keep them in all non-US territories. Not to mention there’s some messy trademark business in regards to the character of Jason himself, with both parties arguing over who owns the rights there. Still, Miller’s won round one, if you will, and legal experts are saying that could force Cunningham to settle.
Where things will ultimately end up is hard to say right now, but there’s certainly reason for Friday the 13th fans to rejoice this weekend and as more updates on the lawsuit roll in, we’ll be sure to let you know.