Friday the 13th's Got a Legal Curse

ArticlesNick PeronComment

So this happened yesterday:

End of content _ Friday the 13th the Game - Google Chrome 2018-06-12 16.46.15.png

Yesterday, Gun Media, creators of the popular Friday the 13th game have halted all new content for  the game. 

As many in our community may be aware, a legal claim has been made which could affect all future Friday the 13th intellectual property. Although in the past the game has not been subject to any such claim, new content and material going forward will be affected. An initial decision in this case was expected in October 2017, but no decision has yet been issued. The court review of the legal rights is in process, but final resolution may take some time. Until the claim rights can be dismissed or resolved, no new content can be released.
— Gun Media Statement

This gives the axe (ha ha) to some of the planned updates for the game for the foreseeable future. Gun Media was in the process of releasing some new DLCs that included new Jason's, new councillors, and new maps. So who or what is responsible for this horrific turn of events? Well it's all because of this man:

Rock 'n' Roll Grandpa?

Rock 'n' Roll Grandpa?

For those of you who are not familiar with Victor Miller, a) you're at terrible horror movie fan, and b) is the guy who wrote the screenplay for the original Friday the 13th film. Back in June of last year, Victor filed a motion to reclaim the copyright to his script, stating that he is the original owner of the screenplay. This is in line with copyright law, provided he can prove he legally owns the script. There's one hitch: Sean Cunningham and his company state that Victor Miller was only a work-for-hire. The end result is that all of the elements of the original Friday the 13th film, including characters, plot, yadda yadda yadda are tied up in the legal proceedings for the duration. This means no new Friday the 13th content can be made, this also includes the video game. If you want to read more about it here are the very dry legal documents filed by Miller and Cunningham camps. However, in simplest terms, what is in dispute, is that Miller was a work-for-hire. We're talking about negotiations that happened in the late 70s. Going over old paperwork with a fine tooth comb and determining if contracts were signed before the work was complete or after. If the documentation does state it is a work for hire, or not. 

That's about all the patience I have for clickbaity regurgitation of facts for one article. Here at Trouble City, we like to editorialize on what's going on. So buckle up.

Give 'Em Hell Victor

We're living in a world where creator's rights are getting mired in the lengthy legal battles for proper credit. This has happened frequently in the comic book industry in recent years where the estates of some of the greatest creators in history have been going after the big companies and getting their rightful due. Open up a comic book these days and you'll see "Based on characters created by..." and these are the end results of those trials. The estate of Jack Kirby is getting proper compensation for the characters that Jack co-created that turned Marvel Comics into the franchise powerhouse it is today. Same thing with the Seigle and Shuster estates over the rights to Superman. The comic book industry made its fortunes off "work-for-hire" jobs, that pay breadcrumbs to the original creators (if anything at all). As these companies become massive media juggernauts (DC being owned by Warner Brothers and Marvel by Disney, respectively) I think creator's rights are more important than ever. Especially when it comes to the possibility of getting back control.

You know your franchise is worth some coin when Funko makes a lazy vinyl figure based on your character.

You know your franchise is worth some coin when Funko makes a lazy vinyl figure based on your character.

In the case of Victor Miller, his lawsuit is relatively unheard of in the horror movie franchise, but it's got all the hallmarks of the shit that has gone down in the comic book industry. I say, all the power to him because he did write the screenplay. I can't be sure what he gets paid in royalties if any at all, but considering the amount of money the franchise pulls in, he should be getting his due. Even though horror movies aren't quite the money maker comic books have been in recent history, they still have some pull. Friday the 13th in particular. Sure there hasn't been a Friday film in almost 10 years but look at all the licensing that is out there. You can walk into a Spencers or Hot Topic and find Jason Voorhee's mug plastered on everything from wallets, to belt buckles, to shot glasses. They sell Friday the 13th hockey jerseys for crying out loud. There's Halloween costumes, playing cards. Then there's the specialty merch. Every time Fright-Rags comes out with awesome Friday the 13th shirts, you can bet they are officially licensed. If they could slap Jason Voorhee's face on tampons they would. What I'm saying is, the franchise still gets it money from somewhere. Action figures are a huge market as well, with a flood of official Friday the 13th action figures and other collectibles. These days, the franchise is getting a big boost in the form of video games. Jason Voorhees has appeared in Dead IslandMortal Kombat X , and the aforementioned Friday the 13th: The Game.

I think it's only fair that Victor Miller gets his piece of the pie.

How I See This Going

Everyone's big fear is that if Victor Miller gets the rights back and pulls the plug on the franchise for some reason. Like, perhaps, Miller will take control of the franchise and go his own direction. My opinion on this is: Why? The franchise has already got a good foundation, it would be a franchise killer if he decided to go home with the game ball. He is just going to get some say on where things are going to go and get a cut of every penny the franchise makes going forward. 

Do you honestly think he's going to care much for a franchise he last touched almost 40 years ago? Using the comic book industry as an example, it's not like the Kirby estate calls the shots on what Marvel does with Captain America, or the Fantastic Four. They get a cut of the money for the continued use of those characters What is likely going to happen is the situation will be settled out of court because it will be cheaper to deal with it that way and that's the last we'll hear of it and things will continue on as normal.

The only way this could have been more on the nose would be if Henry Winkler flew by the Grendle riding a shark.

The only way this could have been more on the nose would be if Henry Winkler flew by the Grendle riding a shark.

Still, even if Miller getting the rights back, he'll be doing the same thing Sean Cunningham has been doing since they started cranking out sequels: A name in the executive producer slot. Perhaps he'll come back and write a new Friday the 13th film. But other than that, I don't really see him interfering with what is done with the license. 

Also, if he took control of the franchise, so what? What can Victor Miller do with the franchise that could be so bad? Friday the 13th films have been hit or miss since the inception. There are probably four good movies in the whole franchise. The last few installments of the franchise were not great. The last time they made a good Jason movie was when he fought Freddy, and even that was a ho-hum affair. Jason's fought telepaths, been to hell and back, and gone to outer space. There's not a whole lot you can do that could be anything worse. That genie has been out of the bottle since A New Beginning. 

As for the Friday the 13th Game? Well, games eventually fall out of popularity. If Friday the 13th: The Game is going to go to an early grave, so be it. It's a fun game, but it is what it is.

The only worse case scenario that can come out of this is a prolonged legal battle. If Victor loses, he'll probably have the right to appeal and this will drag on for a number of years. If Cunningham and Co. are smart, they'll settle, give Victor his due and they can all move and make money together.

Regardless of what happens, I am on team Victor Miller. If it wasn't for him, there wouldn't have been a Friday the 13th franchise. A creator deserves his due, and I'd rather endure years without new content if it means he gets what is rightfully his.