Friday the 13th writer Victor Miller is on the verge of getting the rights to is iconic horror character back. The fight for the rights has been between Miller and the film’s producer Sean S. Cunningham, who has claimed that the original script was written as a work-for-hire project for the Manny Company. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagree, ruling that Miller was ‘Manny’s employee for Copyright Act purposes’ and is entitled to authorship rights.
The Hollywood Reporter notes:
The appeal hinged on Miller’s membership in a screenwriters union. Cunningham’s company argued that weight should be placed on how the Writers Guild of America collectively bargains for working conditions, and as such, Miller should be deemed an employee with no standing to terminate copyright. The finding that he wasn’t an employee under copyright law conflicted with the National Labor Relations Act, it was further posited by the producer.
The 2nd Circuit (after a very lengthy delay that annoyed Friday the 13th fans waiting for new sequels) rejects that argument and concludes Miller was an independent contractor when he wrote the screenplay and is therefore entitled to authorship rights.
The fact that this issue has been in court has been the biggest roadblock for any new films from being made. The franchise started in 1980 with 9 sequels, a Freddy vs. Jason film, and a reboot in 2009. Miller only worked on the initial film. Miller is known for not having seen any of the sequels because of his disappointment in the franchise making Jason the villain. In the original film, it’s actually Jason’s mother who is the serial killer
There is still justification for further settlement because the producer retains (non-exclusive) overseas rights as well as intellectual properties derived from Friday the 13th sequels, maybe including the monstrous “Jason” character who appeared later in the franchise. What happens next is anyone’s guess.