‘Friday the 13th’ Writer Wins Appeal to Reclaim Franchise Rights
If you’ve wondered why there hasn’t been a Friday the 13th movie since 2009’s reboot of the franchise, this may explain it. For years, there’s been a legal battle ongoing between the holders of the series’ copyright and the screenwriter of the first Friday the 13th, Victor Miller. Miller filed suit to make use of an aspect of copyright law that allows authors to reclaim their copyright after a set amount of time. The same law is the central point of the recent lawsuits between Disney and the original creators of Marvel’s key characters.
The outcome of that case is still to be determined, but there’s now an outcome in the Friday the 13th suit. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “on Thursday, 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.” (Note that the rights he reclaims are only domestic; the international rights still belong to Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham’s company.)
The case isn’t entirely over; there could be further appeals, or even a petition to the Supreme Court. (Jason Voorhees at the Supreme Court? I suddenly have a great idea for Friday the 13th: Part X!!) And the sides could still come to a settlement to share the rights and financial proceeds from Friday the 13th. But what this means in the short term is that you should probably expect to see writers of other iconic franchises looking to file similar suits to reclaim their copyrights — or at least threatening to do so in order to enter into settlements with the current rights holders.
Hollywood has relied increasingly on existing IP in recent years. So if the writers of that IP can now demand a big chunk of the revenue that these IPs are generating, that has the potentially to significantly affect the movies that get made moving forward. (And if Victor Miller wants to work on Friday the 13th: Jason Takes the Court with me, he knows where to find me.)