Exclusive Interview: Larry Zerner Discusses the Friday the 13th Legal Battle
The actor-turned-attorney shares some greater insight into the legal battle unfolding and what it could mean for the franchise.
By M.T. Bates
Larry Zerner, better known to horror fans as Shelly, the lovable goof from Friday the 13th Part III and the character from whom Jason got his iconic hockey mask, has recently chimed in on the on-going legal battle regarding Victor Miller and the rights to the franchise. The reason this matters is that Mr. Zerner is a very knowledgeable lawyer who is familiar with the happenings of the film industry. He was kind of enough to take some time to answer some more questions regarding this legal battle for us.
M.T. Bates: With the announcement of Friday the 13th: The Game no longer getting new content, many of us were fully prepared to jump on the hate train for Victor Miller, but your tweets tell a different story. Could you sum up again why Miller has a right to pursue this?
Larry Zerner: I’d rather not as it would take me a while. I thought my tweets did that job pretty well.
Bates: We agree! We were under the impression that Miller would be and has been receiving residuals for anything Friday the 13th related. Is this not the case?
Zerner: He might be getting some residuals but that is a very small amount compared to what Sean receives.
Bates: If Miller wins back the rights, would the creators of the game have to negotiate a new deal with him in order to release new future content?
Zerner: In theory, yes. In practice, Victor and Sean would probably enter into a deal dividing up the money they receive from the game.
Bates: What exactly do you think Miller’s endgame is? Is he simply looking to cash in on the success of the franchise or do you believe he might do something further with the rights on his own?
Zerner: Probably both. He wants a share of the money for future F13 projects and he might want to create new works. However, because Victor only would own the rights to the first movie, and only in the U.S., he would be very limited with what he could authorize on his own.
Bates: If Miller and Cunningham negotiate a new deal, how might that affect the bottom line for the guys over at IllFonic and Gun Media with regards to Friday the 13th: The Game?
Zerner: It would probably affect the game people very little, if at all. They might pay a higher royalty rate, but that’s it.
Bates: Fans are looking at this in a very "black and white" sort of way. Are you surprised by this or do you understand why many fans are upset about this and taking a side against Miller?
Zerner: I think people took sides against Miller because they had no idea that the Copyright Act allows Miller to terminate his original transfer of rights and they thought that he was being “greedy.” Also, people like to think there is a good guy and a villain. After my tweets went up, I think most people understand that it’s a lot more complicated and probably the biggest problem has been the fact that the judge hasn’t ruled in eight months.
Bates: In your honest opinion, both as a lawyer and a Friday the 13th alumni, who is in the right here?
Zerner: I have an opinion on who has the better legal opinion but I’m going to keep it in myself because I think if I say, “Victor should win,” then people will take it out on Sean (and vice-versa).
Bates: What is the best outcome fans can hope for?
Zerner: Eventually, this will come to a conclusion. If Sean wins, then everything stays the same. If Victor wins, then Victor and Sean will sit down and make a deal over how Victor should be paid on future projects. The best outcome for the fans is that this comes to a conclusion sooner rather than later so that we can get new content (films, games, etc.) without waiting for years and years.
Bates: You are a fan too, and you want more movies and more new game content just as the rest of us do. Any final words in regards to this messy situation that you think fans should hear?
Zerner: Some of the issues at stake are insanely complicated, even for a copyright lawyer like myself who knows the F13 world. For example, Victor, as the creator of “Jason,” if he prevails in the lawsuit would be entitled to control the creation of derivative works. But much of what we know and love of “Jason” was created in the other films, which were not written by Victor.
So, if NECA puts out a Jason VII figurine, what percentage of the royalty should go to Victor, and what percentage should go to Sean? Should Victor get 50%? 10%? 1%? You can make arguments that would support each of these numbers. There are just no real precedents for something like this so it's not like there is a simple answer to resolving these issues. But there will be a resolution at some point. Everybody just needs to stay cool and not point blame at anyone.
Bates: We appreciate your time, Mr. Zerner. We here at Dead Entertainment cannot thank you enough for doing this.