Friday the 13th

What could possibly be scarier than a machete-wielding mask wearing supernatural serial killer? Lawyers. It looks like just that kind of creature is putting the new ‘Friday the 13th‘ origin story into hot water. If you wonder what kind of issue could be halting production on the film, it seems that the actual rights holder of ‘Friday the 13th’ is in question.

The problem is very much something that comic book readers are familiar with on who owns the rights to characters, the creator or the publisher? Well, it seems that screenwriter Victor Miller who wrote the original 1980 film and created many of the characters is trying to claim the rights to them after all this time. There is a provision in copyright law which allows authors to reclaim ownership and terminate rights of their creation.

Anyone who has seen some of the horror stories of Marvel’s creators in the past knows that this isn’t always an easy process and in many cases can be an unenforceable one. If Miller’s work was done as “work-made-for-hire” then his employer, the studios, in this case, own the content with no recourse on the original writer being able to legally claim the work as their own.

Horror, Inc. and the Manny Company who are the plaintiffs are using this “work-made-for-hire” defense by saying that in 1979 Sean Cunningham came up with parts of the idea and went to Miller to write the characters for the studio.

The complaint states that:

Miller had never written a horror screenplay prior to his being hired by Cunningham and was guided in the process, and directly supervised, by Cunningham. Accordingly, Miller entered into an employment agreement with the Manny Company pursuant to which Miller wrote a screenplay for the Film as a work for hire (the ‘Screenplay’).

Flash forward thirty-six years and we have this lawsuit trying to figure out who actually owns Jason Voorhees.

On top of that it was added that:

As a result of Miller’s improper actions, a cloud has been placed on Horror’s rights in and to the popular and lucrative Friday the 13th movie franchise and has caused, and will continue to cause, both Horror and the Manny Company significant damages. In addition to seeking a declaration of the parties’ respective rights, the Manny Company seeks a determination that Miller has materially breached the Employment Agreement, has slandered Horror’s title in Friday the 13th, and has engaged in unfair trade practices.

It would not surprise me to see this get settled out of court rather quickly as the production studios are already moving full steam on the new film.

Okay Internet lawyers, do you feel that Victor Miller is in the rights to legally own Jason Voorhees or will ‘Friday the 13th’ remain with the studios? Share your thoughts below!

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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Stuart Conover is an author, blogger, and all around geek. When not busy being a father and husband he tries to spend as much time as possible immersed in comic books, science fiction, and horror! Would you like to know more? Follow him on Twitter!