The reboot never happened. When King James conquered the court, Jason Voorhis was in trouble, and the theme of a legal battle has left the horror franchise in limbo.
Before becoming a lawyer, Zena was a victim of Jason Voorhis.
For five years, “Friday the 13th” has been mired in a copyright dispute over who owns the original script, which has partly affected who can use the iconic hockey mask.
Cue Zerner’s death on screen.
In 1982’s “Friday the Thirteenth Part III,” he played a prankster named Shirley, who was attacked by Jason at their cabin in Crystal Lake with his friends. After Zener’s character was killed, Jason took ownership of the hockey mask Shelly used to scare one of his friends. The accessory would go on to define the Killer’s cinematic legacy and play a key role in the case that Zerner now follows.
“I love that my two passions intersect, copyright law and ‘Friday the 13th,'” Zener said. “People love Jason; they want to see more.”
But the Masked Killer has been off the screen since director Marcus Nispel’s “Friday the Thirteenth” came out in 2009.
On the opposite side of the conflict are Sean S. Cunningham, the producer and director of the 1980 film “Friday the 13th,” who also represented a group of investors, and Victor Miller Miller), he is following the copyright has expired.
The court sided with Miller, but in an interview with CNN, lawyers for Cunningham and Miller revealed why Jason may not have been out of court yet.
“Both sides are in deep foxholes,” Cunningham said. “They’re not going to throw any grenades, but I don’t think anyone will be calling for peace talks.”
Who owns Jason now?
Deconstructing who currently owns Jason Voorhees provides a clear window into the copyright laws that affect many of the beloved movie characters, and why the court ruling that ended the controversy didn’t fully shed light on Jason’s future.
After an appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling in September, screenwriter Miller won the rights to the script and characters associated with the original “Friday the 13th” film.
When Congress extended copyright in 1976, it threw a bone at creators of big-name projects, giving them the chance to wrest control of intellectual property from producers and studios.
But only creators hired as independent contractors are protected, not full-time employees of the company. The court concluded that Miller completed Cunningham’s “Friday the 13th” script as a contract worker.
“Now we can license remakes, prequels or even sequels … as long as those films don’t use any additional copyrighted elements,” said Mark Toberoff, a Malibu copyright attorney representing Miller.
This is where it gets complicated.
Miller has control over the script and characters of the original film, but not the title of “Friday the 13th” or the content of the sequel, which includes a grown-up Jason and the iconic hockey mask that has defined him since the third installment. (Jason’s mother was the killer in Miller’s original film).
Toberov, who has also acquired the rights to horror icons Freddy Kruger and Wes Craven Estate’s “Nightmare on Elm Street,” appears to be poised to take a good road as he moves forward with future projects.
“Miller now owns the rights to his script, including the sequel rights, but can’t Jason be portrayed as older than the first film? It doesn’t make sense,” Toboroff said. “Jason played a very important role in Miller’s film. In fact, Mrs Voorhis channeled Jason. Of course, the first one was ready for a sequel.”
He was referring to the final scene, in which young Jason jumps from the lake to attack the heroine.
“Then there’s the issue of masks,” Toberov added. “You make a new mask, like they used to do so often? Do you even need a mask?”
Cunningham said he’s ready to fight if Miller tries to make a “Friday the 13th” centered on an adult version of Jason’s character.
“I can’t imagine them being very successful if it was a grown-up Jason without a hockey mask,” he added.
The debate over Jason’s age and appearance may be moot due to a key limitation of U.S. copyright law: It applies only to rights within the U.S., not foreign markets coveted by Hollywood distributors. Those rights still belong to him and the original investors, Cunningham said.
“Miller had to convince the studio to make something like this that could only be released in the U.S.,” Zener said. “We can have this theoretical argument that you can make a movie that doesn’t violate anyone else’s rights, but no one would seriously do it without global rights? I doubt it.”
But Toboroff claims the case is different because of the unusual nature of Miller’s 1979 agreement with Cunningham, saying that in addition to the full range of U.S. rights he won last year, Miller will hold in court. Part of the global rights stake.
“We could license a TV series exploring Crystal Lake and how Jason became himself — think ‘Twin Peaks’ or ‘Bates Motel,'” Toberoff said.
The “Friday the 13th” controversy may be confusing, but it’s not the only one. Copyright battles for many well-known characters are coming.
“In the next few years, some iconic Hollywood movies may be in court,” Moss said. “Films like RoboCop, Beetlejuice, and Ace Ventura.”
Fox has settled the rights to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 film “Predator,” Moss said, adding that Disney is currently working on five Marvel characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man and Black Widow. litigation. But Moss said fans shouldn’t worry about the risk of their favorite Avengers being kept out of the screen.
“Because the current rights holders (Disney, in the Avengers case) are usually the ones best suited to make and distribute films globally,” Moss said. “This usually leads to a negotiation and settlement between the parties,” he said.
’50-50′ odds on another movie
Lakers star James isn’t the only heavyweight drooling over the prospect of a new “Friday the 13th.” Horror icon Stephen King hangs on his wish to write a new story from the perspective of Jason Voorhees himself.
That focus is a far cry from the tattered origins from which Cunningham and Miller capitalized on the success of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic “Halloween.”
“We’re both broke and both trying to make money to keep the lights on for six months,” Cunningham said.
After hundreds of millions of dollars, the question of who benefits from all that cash is the obvious motivation for the saga.
“Sean made millions,” Zener said. Miller, “Get the Buckys.”
Everyone involved agrees that if Jason swings his machete again – in a movie, TV or video game – especially after the “Halloween” franchise is a huge success, millions more will be sitting at the table.
“I think it’s definitely coming back,” Cunningham said. “But I can’t tell you it’s going to be back this year or next. Will Jason be back in theaters? It’s 50-50 right now.”
If an agreement cannot be reached, Zener will provide a last resort.
“After 53 years, it’s going to be in the public domain, and then anyone can make a movie,” he said with a laugh.
So, in theory, anyone can, you might say, try it.