The ‘Friday the 13th’ Legal Battle Might Potentially Be Over
The incredibly long-running Friday the 13th franchise hasn't seen a new installment in 13 years. Why not? Well, original director Sean Cunningham has been embroiled in a legal battle with screenwriter Victor Miller since 2016. And now, it seems like their court case is coming to an end.
For those who need a refresher, Miller filed a copyright termination to regain the rights to Friday the 13th — and his characters Pamela Voorhees, Alice Hardy, and Jason himself — in 2016. In 2018, a trial judge ruled that Miller should receive the U.S. rights under the Copyright Act's termination right. Cunningham fought the decision, carrying it over to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. It has remained there for nearly three years.
In Cunningham's eyes, Miller was merely a hired employee who therefore didn't have rights to the script he was writing. But in September, the court found Miller not to be an independent contractor, which means he's entitled to authorship rights. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a win for him in a copyright termination battle. As a result, [Miller is] set to reclaim the domestic rights to the franchise.” However, international rights still belong to Cunningham's company.
Done and done, right? Not exactly. While this update back in late September pushed the case closer to a conclusion, there were still opportunities for further appeals — or even a petition to the Supreme Court. But according to entertainment lawyer Larry Zerner (who happened to play Shelley in Friday the 13th Part III) Cunningham did not file a petition to appeal the decision, which makes it appear as if the case is finally over.
While the domestic rights to the first film have been returned to Miller, both sides still must figure out a way to settle the disagreement if there is to ever be another Friday the 13th movie in the future.