Friday The 13th Producer Says They’re Exploring New Projects
The lawsuit that’s tied up the Friday the 13th franchise (including bringing DLC content for the excellent online multiplayer game to an abrupt conclusion) has come to an end. For now, at least.
The case was based on the fact that Victor Miller, who wrote the screenplay for the 1980 horror classic, believed that he was entitled to the rights to the characters and settings. His argument was that the script wasn’t written as “work-made-for-hire,” thus granting him intellectual property rights. Judge Stefan Underhill, sitting in the US District Court, agreed, saying in his judgment:
“I hold that Miller did not prepare the screenplay as a work for hire and that Miller’s Second Termination Notice validly terminated Horror’s rights to the copyright in the screenplay to Friday the 13th.”
That certainly sounds like a victory for Miller, but it’s a little more complicated than that. The defendants in the case, Horror Inc., still have control over the overseas rights to the characters and, more crucially, Underhill declined to rule on the copyright of Jason himself, explaining that the defendant’s lawyers might be able to thread the legal needle of claiming that the Jason of the original movie is substantially difficult to the Jason of the sequel (if they’re looking for an expert witness on horror films, I’m available).
Licking their wounds (and presumably kicking their lawyers), a clearly unhappy Horror Inc. gave this statement to Bloody Disgusting, promising that despite the ruling, they still intend to explore new projects.
“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling and disagree with its conclusion. We are considering our options including an appeal. In the meantime, the court was very clear that its ruling in favor of Mr. Miller is limited to the original screenplay in which Jason’s mother is the killer and that Mr. Miller’s termination notice did not purport to terminate the separate copyright in the iconic supernatural killer who wears a hockey mask. It also does not grant any rights to Mr. Miller that would enable him to use any element of the original screenplay outside of the United States.
“Following the guidelines set down by the Court’s ruling, we intend to aggressively explore many opportunities for new projects featuring settings and characters (including the hockey mask-wearing killer) not included in Mr. Miller’s screenplay, and in fact are currently in development on new projects that are consistent with the ruling which will be announced soon.”
So, it sounds like everyone sort of wins. Victor Miller gets the rights he was entitled to and can do whatever he likes with them, and Horror Inc. are planning to pursue projects revolving around a “hockey-mask-wearing killer” in the near future.
Whether this killer’s Jason or a suspiciously similar non-IP infringing Jason-look-a-like remains to be seen. Either way, though, I’m just glad we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel of this long-running legal saga for Friday the 13th and can get back to what really matters – slaughtering drunk teenagers in ever more elaborate ways.