Larry Zerner Breaks Down Friday the 13th Lawsuit Timeline, “Dangerous” Appeal Arguments

Given the latest developments in the case, fans should not expect an early resolution to this matter.

By Chris Morse

The latest on the ongoing legal battle over the Friday the 13th franchise rights does not spell good news for fans eager to see the hockey-mask-wearing slasher return to the big screen anytime soon. As with the last update, the appeal over the initial ruling is moving forward full steam ahead, but the likelihood of seeing this process continue for some time to come just went up drastically with Sean Cunningham’s filing of his opening appellate.

“What does this mean?” tweeted Larry Zerner, the actor-turned-lawyer who played Shelly in Part III. “Let's just say the chances of an early settlement just went way down.”

In case you need a refresher, the dispute is between Sean Cunningham's Horror, Inc and original Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller. Essentially, the Copyright Act includes a provision that the original rights holder can use to reclaim what they once owned for any number of reasons. For example, if a bad deal was made many years prior or the value of the property has since shifted in such a way that might warrant a new or better deal, this is a tool that creators can use to secure their rights once again.

In this case, there were some factors in dispute, such as whether Miller was considered an employee or not when he first wrote the film. Thus, the argument moved into the courts and was in limbo for quite some time, leading to the eventual cancellation of future content for the video game. Back in September, a judge ruled in favor of Miller, but Cunningham quickly filed a Notice of Appeal so he can continue arguing his case and kick the litigation can down the road a little bit longer, so to speak.

As promised, Zerner read over the entire brief and provided fans with a full breakdown, including a potential timeline and the ramifications of some of the arguments being made by Cunningham, which he described as “dangerous for screenwriters.” We’ll include the full Twitter thread below, but here are some of our key takeaways.

For starters, Cunningham is making a dubious argument about the rights of screenwriters such that a ruling in his favor could drastically undermine the intent of the Copyright Act with respect to WGA agreements. Interestingly, this claim might even force the WGA to get involved to protect the rights of its members. In other words, this case is about to get very interesting with some potentially big ramifications for the industry as a whole.

As for the timeline on this case, Zerner offered fans a comprehensive breakdown. In the short term, Miller’s brief must be filed within 30 days (or 60 if it receives an extension) with Sean’s reply coming in 21 days after that. In the longer term, oral arguments might not take place until early next year with a decision around May.

From there, the losing side could potentially take this up to the Supreme Court, which probably would not decide on even taking the case until the fall. If they pass on it, this dispute would be over for good with the appeal court having the final word on the matter. On the other hand, the Supreme Court taking on the case would extend the fight until the summer of 2021. Essentially, things are pretty complicated right now, barring any surprise settlement, which seems unlikely at this time.

Got all that? Good. For those of you who want to read more about this in a little more detail, see below for the full breakdown from Zerner’s Twitter thread.


As per usual, we will keep you updated with all the latest developments here on Dead Entertainment.

About the Author

Chris Morse

Programmer by day, writer by night. Having grown up surrounded by plenty of horror movies and video games, it only made sense for Chris to combine all of these passions into one place: Dead Entertainment. Whether he's working on designs, tinkering with the platform, or just writing up the latest horror news, he's sure to be hard at work keeping the wheels turning on this website no matter what time of day it is. When not coding or gaming, you can find him donning a Cheesehead and heading to the Midwest to cheer on his favorite NFL team, the Green Bay Packers. #GoPackGo