Friday the 13th Franchise Star Reveals Perfect Plan to Free the Rights to the Series

Larry Zerner, a lawyer who played Shelly Finkelstein in Friday the 13th Part III, has combined those two accomplishments into a single, simple plan to free Friday the 13th from its ongoing rights issues. The plan is as simple as it is implausible, but at least it's a funny idea: Zerner suggested that fans emulate the -- ahem...success? -- of the Area 51 "siege" from earlier this month and storm Warner Bros. to steal back the rights to Friday the 13th. The joke here is that no new movies or other content can currently be made, since there is an ongoing lawsuit between the original film's screenwriter and Horror, Inc., the current purported rights-holders to the Jason franchise.

In a feud that might sound familiar to comic book aficionados looking back on Siegel, Shuster, and Jack Kirby, the basic premise is that screenwriter Victor Miller is trying to reclaim the copyright that he transfered to The Manny Company, which was the previous owner of the rights before Horror Inc. There is a clause in American copyright law that would allow for such a reclamation, as long as Miller is the statutory owner of the original screenplay -- which is a murkier area.

According to producer Sean Cunningham of Horror Inc., Miller wrote the movie under a work-for-hire deal with The Manny Company, which would put him at the same disadvantage as nearly every comic book creator who has sued to take back the rights to content they created. U.S. copyright law essentially holds that if work is made for hire, it is the employer, not the writers themselves, who own the original copyright. About a year ago, a court found in favor of Miller, ordering that the rights revert back to him, but Cunningham has filed an appeal.

In addition to the movies being halted, there are no new patches allowed for Friday the 13th: The Game, a popular video game that was filling the void for some users in the absence of Jason movies since the failed attempt to reboot the franchise in 2009.

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Warner Bros. is the "victim" of this "plot" because it is they -- through New Line -- who have been making the more recent Friday the 13th movies, thanks to a deal struck with Horror Inc. It seems plausible that Warner Bros. might have foreseen the lawsuit, becuase for about a decade after the 2009 film, repeated attempts to revive the flagging franchise were launched, but never came to fruition after Warner Bros. and New Line declined to greenlight the scripts.