Screenwriter Victor Miller has won the appeal in the case for the rights to the Friday The 13th franchise, sending Sean Cunningham and Horror Inc. to defeat.
Four decades after penning that influential horror flick, which prompted numerous sequels, he’s scored an important legal victory that may frighten Hollywood producers. On Thursday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a win for him in a copyright termination battle. As a result, he’s set to reclaim the domestic rights to the franchise.
Miller attempted to leverage the part of copyright law that allows authors to reclaim the rights to what they once created after waiting a statutory set period of time.
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 panel advises that the determination of whether an individual is an “employee” will thus vary within different statutory schemes, and here, there’s no sound reason to depart from copyright law’s understanding to mirror labor law’s.
“That labor law was determined to offer labor protections to independent writers does not have to reduce the protections provided to authors under the Copyright Act,” states the opinion (read in full here).
This legal win means that Miller will indeed claim ownership of the domestic rights to the franchise going forward. As previously reported this does not mean that he owns the rights to the adult version of Jason Voorhees, but the franchise name and first film will belong to him.
For now, until various deals are worked out behind the scenes, which will likely still take a long time – the franchise will remain dormant.
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