We’ve been waiting two years now for an update on the next step in the Friday the 13th legal battle that has been raging on for several years now, and we finally have one today.
But first, since it’s been a minute, a brief little recap of the situation…
Ever since a judge ruled back in 2018 that Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller is the sole owner of the original screenplay (in the US, at least), Friday director Sean Cunningham has been working to have the decision reversed. The argument continues to be that Miller wrote the screenplay as a “work-for-hire,” and therefore never should’ve been able to gain rights to the screenplay in the first place. While the trial judge had ruled that the rights go to Miller after all these years under the Copyright Act’s termination right, which allows authors to regain rights to work they signed over to a company, Cunningham and Horror Inc. were hoping that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals would end up reversing that decision.
The Second Circuit was tasked with deciding if Miller will keep the rights to the Friday screenplay, as decided in 2018, or if they’ll revert back to Cunningham/Horror Inc. Mind you, there’ll still be a whole lot to be worked through before Jason can return to the screen, no matter the decision, but this is one massive legal hurdle that *needed* to be resolved first.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner, who has been a constant source of information on this whole mess over the years, provides an update today, informing us that Victor Miller has now won the copyright termination appeal. In other words, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the District Court’s previous order, rejecting the argument and concluding that “Miller was an independent contractor when he wrote the screenplay and is therefore entitled to authorship rights.” Summary judgement has been awarded, therefore, to Victor Miller.
As Eriq explains, “Barring any reversal before a fuller panel at the 2nd Circuit or Supreme Court, Victor Miller will reclaim the domestic rights to the franchise. A big win for attorney Marc Toberoff as he heads into an even bigger fight against Disney over Marvel characters.”
This is a huge next step in the process, but it certainly doesn’t mean that Miller is now free to take the franchise and do whatever he wants with it. For now, until various deals are worked out behind the scenes, which will likely still take a long time – for starters, owning the original screenplay doesn’t mean you own the character of Adult Jason Voorhees as we know him, and Miller’s ownership of the work only covers domestic rights – the franchise will remain dormant. But here’s hoping we’re *almost* at that point where Jason can return once more…