Horror, Inc. v. Miller highlights the tension in copyright law between authors and their grantees. In its decision, the District Court for the District of Connecticut found that screenwriter Victor Miller recaptured his Friday the 13th screenplay by exercising his termination rights. However, the end of the court’s opinion suggested film production company Horror, Inc. may have a claim to the hockey-masked “adult Jason” present in later films. This sets up a conflict between an author seeking to recapture the works they created and grantees who developed sequels based on that work. So, who controls Jason Voorhees?
This Note argues, per the Copyright Act and Supreme Court precedent, that Miller is entitled to a thin layer of copyright protection for the works that originate from his Friday the 13th screenplay, including the name “Jason Voorhees.” This Note further argues that, consistent with the Copyright Act and case law from federal circuits, Horror, Inc. may retain the rights to the various images associated with the hockey-masked serial killer it developed in the sequels. This finding would clearly delineate the interests of both parties, fulfilling the Copyright Act’s promise that authors may remedy unremunerative transfers, while grantees may continue to exploit their independent contributions in derivative works.
Finally, this Note will conclude by suggesting that while both parties have legitimate copyright interests, it would be in the best interest of both parties to strike a deal, bringing Jason Voorhees and his mask back together, and back to the big screen. The solution the law comes to does not guarantee a new hockey-masked Jason Voorhees blockbuster, especially if Miller and Horror, Inc. part ways. Until the parties come together, the future of the Friday the 13th franchise remains in doubt.
Kenneth Stratton, PROPERTY LAW—HORROR, INC. V. MILLER: THE LURKING, UNDERLYING WORK BENEATH CRYSTAL LAKE!, 44 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 367 (2022), https://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/lawreview/vol44/iss3/2