The Friday The 13th Case May Potentially Be Over

It's been 13 years since we've had a new "Friday the 13th" movie, and there's a good chance that number is only going to get bigger. For the uninitiated, there's been an active legal battle between Sean Cunningham, the director of the original "Friday the 13th" and Horror Inc. vs. Victor Miller, the screenwriter for "Friday the 13th" and thereby creator of franchise characters Pamela Voorhees, Alice Hardy, and Jason himself. Miller filed a copyright termination to regain the rights to "Friday the 13th" back in 2016, and in 2018 a trial judge ruled that the U.S. rights should go back to Miller under the Copyright Act's termination right. Cunningham fought the decision, bringing it to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals which has been underway for almost three years.

Cunningham's argument is that Miller was a hired employee to write the original "Friday the 13th" which shouldn't have allowed him to claim the rights to the script from the start. However, back in September, Victor Miller was found by the court to not have been an independent contractor when writing the script and is therefore entitled to authorship rights. The rights to "Friday the 13th" were set to revert back to Miller, albeit only for U.S. rights and in the case of the original film.

As of today, however, entertainment lawyer Larry Zerner noted that there was no petition filed by Cunningham to appeal the decision, which would make it appear that the case is finally over.

Okay, But What Does This Mean?

Zerner (who also played Shelley in "Friday the 13th Part III") continued to explain through the Twitter thread that the lack of petition filing doesn't necessarily mean that the parties are close to settling, nor does it mean that a new "Friday the 13th" movie is on the way. In fact, Zerner predicts Cunningham realized that filing a cert petition would have likely not gone in his favor and that it's more probable that the duos are attempting to work out a resolution without the involvement of the courts. "But I wouldn't hold my breath," he tweeted. 

The rights reverting to Miller complicates things a bit because, while Miller owns the first script and the U.S. rights, Sean still owns the adult, hockey mask-wearing slasher we know and love. However, since Miller is the creator of "Jason Voorhees" as a character, regardless of his child status in the first film, Cunningham cannot legally use the character without Miller's permission, nor can he reference other aspects established in the first film like Camp Crystal Lake.

In the simplest terms possible: Miller got the U.S. rights back for the first film, but the two are going to have to figure out a way to settle if there's any chance at a new "Friday the 13th" film. Even with the case being "over," the situation is still complicated because copyright laws make about as much sense as the pizza delivery place in my neighborhood that only uses bitcoin. Miller cannot use the hockey mask, the most identifiable aspect of "Friday the 13th," and Cunningham can't use the name or the location in the United States. Delicious, delicious mess.

We will keep you updated as things progress further, but as it stands, a new "Friday the 13th" movie is still likely a long ways away unless these two can come to an agreement.