The Friday the 13th intellectual property has been the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, with the writer of the original 1980 film wanting the rights to continue to make more movies in the series, while the director and series producer Sean Cunningham is fighting against it. GameRevolution has learned, from one side at least, that the recently released Friday the 13th: The Game will be safe from this lawsuit, even if the current rights holders should lose this case.
Back in June of last year, Miller, the writer of 1980’s Friday the 13th, sent a notice to Horror, INC, the production company behind the film series, seeking to reclaim his rights over the franchise. Only Cunningham insists that he never had any rights to it, and that he produced the screenplay as a “work-for-hire” that entitled him to a lump some of money and nothing else. The case is still being deliberated, and each side has filed a motion for a summary judgment to quickly resolve the issue. Lawyers from Miller’s side have insisted that Miller isn’t trying to stop Horror, INC from taking advantage of already-produced films, but that Miller wants to be able to make further derivations.
That said, it was unclear how this applied to the recently released asymmetrical horror game Friday the 13th: The Game, since, unlike a movie, a multiplayer video game is something that is not just created and released but is in a constant state of updating and adding new content. Friday the 13th: The Game has long talked about adding new content via DLC (at least some of which is going to be free), including new counselors, new Jasons and new maps. In addition, Friday the 13th: The Game’s single-player campaign is due later this summer. So, the question is obvious: would Gun Media and IllFonic, developers for the game, still be able to produce that content should the judge in this case rule in Miller’s favor?
Well, according to Robert Wyman, the lawyer for Horror, INC., who spoke with GameRevolution via email, the answer is yes.
“We can absolutely confirm that the Victor Miller claim does not impact the current game being distributed by Gun Media now or in the future,” Wyman told GameRevolution. “Even if he won his action, Mr. Miller would not own the Jason character as he has come to be known and loved and feared. He did not create the title and so would not have the right to control its use.”
GameRevolution has reached out to Marc Toberoff, lawyer for Mr. Miller, but has not yet received a response. That said, Wyman’s claim is consistent with the facts. Since the lawsuit is over the original Friday the 13th movie, the only one for which Miller provided the screenplay, it can only extend to the content of that film. It’s also universally accepted that Cunningham, not Miller, came up with the title “Friday the 13th.” As anyone who has seen the first movie can tell you, Jason Voorhees wasn’t the killer, only appearing in the movie as a fake-out jump-scare at the end as a child. During the movie, he was only referenced by name.
That said, Friday the 13th: The Game, does include reference to Pamela Voorhees, who was created and featured in the original Friday the 13th film. There are a series of hidden tapes you can find throughout each game’s level (although they are exceedingly rare) that have an actor playing Pamela Voorhees recounting what happened to Jason. In addition, Gun Media head Wes Keltner has said that they would consider adding Pamela Voorhees to the game as a playable killer “down the road a bit.” While it is unclear if they would be able to do this should the judge rule in Miller’s favor, Wyman said it would be inappropriate to speculate further.
“The rights holders do not want to prematurely anticipate answers that only a judicial decision can make,” Wyman told GameRevolution. “That said, the rights holders firmly believe that their long standing rights, which have produced twelve feature films and the highly successful current video game, will be upheld in the federal courts.”
Many are speculating that Miller could be given the rights to a “Jason Voorhees” character for use in future media, though this wouldn’t be the hockey-mask-wearing, machete-wielding killer of the Friday the 13th franchise, this much seems to be implied by Wyman’s original response when he said Miller wouldn’t get the Jason “as he has come to be known and loved and feared.”
At any rate, players of Friday the 13th: The Game can rest easy knowing that their beloved game is safe from being usurped by legal issues.