'Friday The 13th' Rights Stuck In A Legal Battle Between Screenwriter And Current Rights Holders

Earlier this month, we learned that The Crazies director Breck Eisner may be lined up to direct the next iteration of the Friday the 13th franchise, which has been in the works for years now. However, the future of the slasher film series may be uncertain with the rights to Friday the 13th now at the center of a new legal battle.

Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller has filed a notice of termination for the rights to the horror franchise that would see current rights holder Horror Inc. and collaborator the Manny Company forced to revert them them back to Miller. How is this even possible? Find out more about the Friday the 13th rights lawsuit after the jump.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Victor Miller is taking advantage of a provision in copyright law that allows the authors of any given material to terminate the grant of rights and reclaim ownership at their discretion. The authors merely had to wait a minimum of 35 years before filing the notice. Funnily enough, it used to be 55 years, but that changed in 1978 so that every work created after that year fell under the new provision, which includes Friday the 13th, made in 1980.

The notice must be filed two years before the termination would take place, so the Friday the 13th rights wouldn't revert back to Miller until 2018. But if Horror Inc. and the Manny Company have anything to say about it, that won't happen.

The two companies have filed a lawsuit to head Miller off at the pass by claiming that Miller wrote the original Friday the 13th screenplay as a work-made-for-hire, which would exclude it from being covered by the aforementioned copyright provision. They say the idea for Friday the 13th originated with Sean Cunningham, who hoped to capitalize on the success of Halloween and asked Miller to develop the idea with him. Here's what they say in the lawsuit:

"Miller had never written a horror screenplay prior to his being hired by Cunningham and was guided in the process, and directly supervised, by Cunningham. Accordingly, Miller entered into an employment agreement with the Manny Company pursuant to which Miller wrote a screenplay for the Film as a work for hire (the 'Screenplay')."

The bad news is that Victor Miller may have a leg to stand on in this lawsuit. Larry Zerner, a successful entertainment lawyer, has spoken with a Friday the 13th fan site about the lawsuit, and here's what they have to say on the matter:

"First and foremost, Larry Zerner has reviewed Victor Miller's original contract for writing Friday The 13th and he mentioned to me that it is not explicitly stated that Victor was a "writer-for-hire" or employed by Manny Company. In this case, one could view Miller as an independent contractor and fully in his right to claim the copyright of Friday The 13th. If this is found to be true by the court, then it is the responsibility of Horror Inc. to prove that Victor Miller, although credited as the sole writer of the film, was not the only creative behind designing the script and story and that Sean Cunningham was indeed the driving force in shaping the story and ultimately the script."

There's no indication as to how quickly this lawsuit will be sorted out or if it will hinder the development of the latest installment of the franchise, or something like the video game based on the movies that's also in the works. If this ends up turning into a bigger debacle, we'll be sure to let you know. If you want to check out the full legal complaint, you can read it all right here.