Friday the 13th

The horror genre, with a further extension into the slasher genre, has had a sort of revival in recent years.

While the horror movie reboot craze has been alive and well, many have wondered where a remake of the hockey masked killer was. Jason may have made an appearance in the Friday The 13th remake in 2009, but his revival has been relatively quiet.

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There’s reason for the lack of a Jason Voorhees. As the Hollywood Reporter notes, Victor Miller, the original screenplay writer of the 1980 film, has been in a legal battle with Sean Cunningham, the original director and several of its producers for the creative rights on the project.

In the case, the producers claimed that Miller was a “work-made-for-hire” writer that didn’t come up with the idea. Cunningham allegedly came up with the idea after seeing the success of the 1978 release of Halloween.

Despite the claims from Cunningham and company, the U.S. District Court has ruled in favor of Miller, who now has won the copyrights of the cult-classic horror film.

“Nearly 40 years ago, a screenplay was written about Camp Crystal Lake,” a 62-page summary judgment from U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill reads. “The film created from the screenplay went on to significant commercial success.”

He then continued with a lengthy summary of the case, before sharing:

“I hold that Miller did not prepare the screenplay as a work for hire and that Miller’s Second Termination Notice validly terminated Horror’s rights to the copyright in the screenplay to Friday the 13th.”

With the decision of Miller being declared the sole owner of the screenplay’s copyright, which was a decision that has been pending for almost a year now – a fact that has reportedly stalled recent developments in the franchise.

As THR notes, if there are no settlements or any appeals, there could still be future battles dealing with Jason. Per the report, there’s still trademark issues over Jason’s character.

As the producers claim, Miller only created a character named Jason who died at an early age, whereas sequels created a character named Jason who wears a hockey masks and kills a bunch of people.

Underhill has ruled that while Miller has gained all rights of his screenplay, the producers may very well have a chance at trademarking the iconic masked killer, saying:

I also decline to analyze the extent to which Miller can claim copyright in the monstrous ‘Jason’ figure present in sequels to the original film.

Horror may very well be able to argue that the Jason character present in later films is distinct from the Jason character briefly present in the first film, and Horror or other participants may be able to stake a claim to have added sufficient independently copyrightable material to Jason in the sequels to hold independent copyright in the adult Jason character. That question is not properly before the court in this case, however.

The original film was released in 1980, with an entire series of films coming after the initial release, including the most recent, Friday The 13th, released in 2009.

What do you think of the legal battle? Sound off in the comments below!

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