More on the Friday the 13th Ruling from Horror, Inc., Larry Zerner Weighs In
The copyright, trademark, and entertainment lawyer formerly known as Shelly breaks down the ruling.
By Chris Morse
Last Friday, a federal court finally made a ruling on the Friday the 13th rights dispute and the judgment was rendered in favor of the defendant, Victor Miller, who wrote the screenplay for the original film. Now that the dust has settled and the ruling has been made available for public review, we are finally starting to see the big picture here as more information is being made available.
Before we get into the specifics of the ruling, it's worth hearing from Horror, Inc., the plantiffs in the case who disputed Miller's attempt to reclaim the rights to the original film here in the United States. The fine folks over at Bloody-Disgusting received a statement from the company, which is owned by Sean Cunningham, giving the first public remarks on the ruling.
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.
This statement outlines several limitations in the scope of the ruling, which we have previously discussed, as the company considers its options moving forward. Among those options are taking this case to appeal, which could be an even lengthier process, or a settlement between the two gentlemen in dispute. Former Shelly actor and current copyright, trademark, and entertainment lawyer Larry Zerner took to Twitter and broke down what the ruling means and where the two sides can go from here.
Victor Miller @vicmill1 (who wrote the original F13 movie) sent a notice of termination to the current owners of the F13 copyright in July 2016 which went into effect in July 2018. Horror, Inc. (owned by Sean Cunningham, the producer of F13) then sued Victor 2/— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
To qualify as a work-for-hire, the Copyright Act says that that one of two conditions must exist: 1) there is a writing signed by the parties stating that the screenplay was written as a work-for-hire or 2) the author was an "employee" of the contracting party. 4/— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
is an employee or independent contractor. These factors include 1) the right to control the manner of creation, 2) the skill required, 3) whether employee benefits were given, 4) the tax treatment of the hired party, 5) whether the hiring party can assign additional projects. 6/— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
Horror tried to argue that even if the 13 factors went in Victor's favor, because Victor was a WGA member and only "employees" can belong to a labor union, that Victor must be an employee for copyright purposes. The Court just didn't buy that argument at all. 8/— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
Horror also wanted the judge to rule on whether Victor's copyright extended to the adult hockey-mask wearing Jason that we know and love, and that didn't appear in the original F13 movie. The Court declined to express any opinion on that subject 10/— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
If Horror doesn't appeal, then it has to make a deal with Victor in order to make a new movie. Victor only owns the U.S. rights to the original movie. Horror owns the foreign rights to the first movie and to all the other movies 12/— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
And what about Jason merchandise? How do you split the royalties on all the Jason figures? (These are some of the Jason figures on my desk). It's a really difficult question for which there is no set answer. 14/ pic.twitter.com/juIMWptiM5— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
As for the game, it is and shall always be a great game. But even if Victor and Sean work things out, the guys at @fearthegun will not be adding new content. END/— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) October 1, 2018
We will leave this off with that excellent parting advice from Mr. Zerner. Make a deal and capitalize on the excellent place the horror genre is right now! As the statement from Horror, Inc. indicated, the company still has plans to explore any and all available Friday the 13th opportunities within the scope of their current rights as this situation continues to unfold, so considering a cooperative option also makes plenty of sense. That's all for now. Be sure to check back for all of the latest here on Dead Entertainment.
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