Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller has prevailed in a legal battle that will help determine the future fate of the franchise, according to a bombshell report in THR.
Producers of the cult 1980 horror film including companies associated with Sean Cunningham filed a lawsuit in 2016, after Miller aimed to take advantage of a provision of copyright law that allows authors to terminate a grant of rights and reclaim ownership 35 years after publishing. The producers alleged that Miller wrote Friday the 13th as a work-made-for-hire after Cunningham came up with an idea to capitalize on the success of the then-recently released horror film Halloween. They asserted that his termination notice was ineffective.
Miller disputed his screenplay was a work-made-for-hire, which under copyright law would mean that the producers authored the work and it wasn’t eligible for termination. His attorney Marc Toberoff argued that while the screenplay was clearly commissioned as part of a motion picture, there never was any writing instrument as required by law spelling out the screenplay was a work-made-for-hire.
The decision has been pending for almost a year now, and the uncertainty over ownership has reportedly interfered with new sequels being made as well as derivative works like video games.
Miller’s victory also holds the prospect that he will control rights inside the United States while producers control rights outside the domestic market where termination recapture isn’t applied.
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