The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the U.S. District Court ruled that contrary to the claims of the movie’s director Sean Cunningham and other producers that the film was written as “work-made-for-hire”, the reality is different and the domestic rights to the property lie with Miller.
“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,” U.S. District Court Judge Stephan Underhill mentioned in his summary judgment.
The termination notice mentioned above is a provision of the copyright law which allows writers to terminate rights that they might have given to others on projects and reclaim the ownership of the property, 35-years after the publication. This rule is applicable only to the authors, and as per the rule, work-made-for-hire is deemed as authored by the producers, making the termination not applicable.
This decision ended the lawsuit on this specific issue of rights that was pending for close to a year now and created hurdles for the new sequels and other inspired works being created, based on the Friday the 13th franchise. However, despite Miller getting the rights, the case is not exactly resolved as you might assume. This particular rule applies only to domestic rights because The Second Termination Notice applies to domestic rights exclusively.
The producers of the film keep their rights outside the domestic market, and it is not as if these rights are a bit of a bone of contention. There is also the question of the ownership of character “Jason.” Underhill refused to give a ruling on “Jason’s” copyright observing that there might be enough proof for the producers to claim that the “Jason” written by Miller and the one featured in the sequel are dissimilar.
“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,” Underhill wrote. “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.”