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For starters, put down the pitchforks and take it easy on Victor Miller.
It’s been no secret for quite some time that the biggest issue holding up the Friday the 13th franchise is a pending lawsuit filed by director Sean Cunningham and his Horror Inc. against Victor Miller, writer of the original film. The case made headlines again this week, however, when a new target found itself in the lawsuit’s cross-hairs: sadly, all future DLC content for Friday the 13th: The Game has been suspended.
We’ve been writing about the Sean Cunningham vs. Victor Miller lawsuit for a while now, but the reality is that none of us are legal experts. This has made the developing story a tough one for us to cover, because what the hell do we know? Thankfully, Friday the 13th: Part III star Larry “Shelly” Zerner, whose character recently was added as a playable survivor in Friday the 13th: The Game, is here to make sense of the whole thing for us. Why Larry Zerner, you ask? Well, as it turns out, Zerner is now an entertainment lawyer!
In a series of tweets today, Zerner broke down the messy legal battle.
“I’ve seen a lot of people dragging Victor [Miller] online as if this is his fault. It’s not,” Zerner began. “The Copyright Act includes a provision that states that an author can terminate any transfer he or she has made after 35 years. Congress added this provision to allow creators (writers, songwriters, etc.) who sold their rights cheap to have a second chance. In the case of Victor Miller, he was originally paid about $9,500 for the original Friday the 13th script, which turned into 12 movies, a very successful video game and lots of Jason Voorhees merchandise. This franchise Victor helped create made hundreds of millions of $$$.”
Zerner continued, “But Victor was not entitled to any of that money. Victor did what the Copyright Act allows him to do, he sent a notice of termination to Sean [Cunningham], giving Sean two years notice of the termination (which would occur in June 2018). The way it usually works in these cases is that the producer and the terminating writer will then have the two year period to work out a deal on how the money will be split on future projects (the termination does not affect movies already completed).”
“But Sean and Victor would need to make a deal because the termination only affects the Friday the 13th U.S. rights. Because of the quirks of copyright law, even after termination, Sean would still own the rights outside the U.S. But instead of making a deal, Sean sued Victor, claiming that the agreement that Victor signed in 1979 is not terminable. And the fact is that this is a very new area of law, so there is not a lot of guidance for judges on who is right. Both sides have very capable lawyers who are arguing the case. One of the problems is that although both sides argued motions for summary judgment last October, the judge in the case still hasn’t ruled. This has really slowed things down. I’m sure that everyone involved believed that there would be a trial long before the termination occurred.”
“I know it’s frustrating for the fans who want new movies and more content. But to blame it all on Victor is unfair.”
You can read Zerner’s complete thread by clicking the tweet below.
Thread: With the announcement by @Friday13thGame that they won’t be adding new content to the game because of the ongoing lawsuit between Sean Cunningham and Victor Miller, I’ve seen a lot of people dragging Victor online as if this is his fault. It’s not. 1/
— Larry Zerner (@Zernerlaw) June 13, 2018