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Cunningham v Miller lawsuit, explained.

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As of the announcement today, Gun and Illfonic cannot release any new content until the above lawsuit is settled.

The Issue

The issue at its core is whether the writer of the original movie can claim ownership over the characters of Jason and elements of the first movie; Cunningham and company claim he cannot, as he was an employee who cannot claim copyright ownership,  Miller “claims to be a freelance writer who wrote the first draft ‘on spec’ prior to completing the work pursuant to a screenwriting agreement.” In other words, Miller wrote and provided a first draft to producer Sean Cunningham’s company without any contract or guarantee of payment, enabling Cunningham to raise money and attract talent to proceed with the project. The parties executed a screenwriting agreement on June 4, 1979, but newly discovered evidence suggests that Miller’s first draft was already complete prior to the date of that agreement. (ipwire) Miller claims that his work was independent of Cunningham and associates, and that he was not an employee of Cunningham or Manny at the time.

The movie is 38 years old, why did Miller wait so long to file a lawsuit?

In accordance with the Copyright Act of 1976, authors are allowed to terminate an existing copyright after a period of 35 years, given that they were not a work for hire.  A Work for hire is a work that is created by an employee as a part of their job.  Miller had between June 4, 2014 and June 4, 2019 to serve a termination of copyright.

So was Miller's Screenplay a "work for hire" or not?

This is really the crux of the issue.  While Cunningham, Manny Company, and Horror, Inc maintain that it was a work for hire drafted under a standard WGA contract, they are not able to provide the court with a copy of a contract that states that it WAS a work for hire.  Further complicating matters, Miller's May 7, 1980 sale of the screenplay from Manny and Georgetown Productions, Inc does not reference the screenplay as a work for hire AND lists Miller as the sole author of the screenplay.

Why and how does this affect the game now?

While the developers did get the rights to the Friday the 13th series that is owned by Sean Cunningham and the company Horror, Inc, Miller's attempt to terminate the copyright agreement means that the rights for the character of Jason and elements of the first 1980 movie are currently in limbo.

Miller's notice of termination lists a date of July 15 2018, at which point he would like ownership or at least credit for all works related to the character of Jason created after that date. Miller's attorney is quoted saying ""Whereas Miller will thereby recover the U.S. copyright to his original film treatment and screenplay this does not prevent the continued exploitation by Plaintiffs or their licensees of prior derivative works, including the 1980 film and its many sequels; it solely relates to new derivative works after the effective 2018 termination date,"" (Hollywood reporter article). 

Presumably, this includes new Friday the 13th Game Content created post July 15, 2018.

But they previously said the lawsuit wouldn't affect the game?

While they did mention that in a summer 2017 article, it was also assuming that the lawsuit would be decided by fall 2017 (according to Gun's statement).  According to court filings, there was a motion filed in October 2017 that was granted in May 2018.  The nature of the motion is not public knowledge, so it could be that the game is enjoined as a Horror, Inc asset, or it could be that a newly unearthed memo from Tom Savini requests a copy of the completed script from BEFORE Miller entered his contract with Cunningham.  Either way, this is newly discovered evidence that has extended the discovery period of the case.

But what does that have to do with THE GAME?!!!!

Again, any released content outside of that creation window COULD be considered a new derivative work involving Miller's creation.  By stopping production on new content, Gun has decided to avoid a possible legal headache where they have to renegotiate compensation to Miller for all new content, and avoiding a separate lawsuit with Miller altogether (by my estimations).

 

Full court docket from Court Listener:

https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4497508/horror-inc-v-miller/

 

Cunningham and Horror, Inc filed this 45 page summary judgement in June 2017:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3863746-Friday-Cunningham.html

 

Here is Victor Miller's 45 page summary judgement from the same date:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3863745-Friday-Miller.html

 

Hollywood Reporter article:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/friday-13th-producer-points-writers-union-membership-bid-hold-franchise-rights-1012930

 

World Intellectual Property Organization's "Navigating US Copyright Termination Rights"

http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2012/04/article_0005.html

 

IPwire's May 2018 article on Savini's memo:

http://ipwire.com/stories/the-smoking-machete-that-could-break-the-friday-the-13th-lawsuit-wide-open/

 

Larry Zerner (Shelly from Part 3 and current entertainment lawyer) breaks it down:

http://bloody-disgusting.com/movie/3504232/part-iii-star-larry-zerner-now-lawyer-clearly-explains-messy-friday-13th-lawsuit/

Slash 'N Cast video interview with Larry Zerner:

 

 

I'll update this as it develops, and to correct errors.

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Anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it seems like they had free reign to add anything from the old movies up UNTIL June 2018. If that is the case, and Uber Jason (and his kills) were completed, and knowing this date was imminent, why did they not just bite the bullet and put him in the game? They did all that work for nothing, and only hackers will ever have access to him.

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1 minute ago, Super Ty said:

Anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it seems like they had free reign to add anything from the old movies up UNTIL June 2018. If that is the case, and Uber Jason (and his kills) were completed, and knowing this date was imminent, why did they not just bite the bullet and put him in the game? They did all that work for nothing, and only hackers will ever have access to him.

Only *speculating* here, but there might have been bugs related to that character that were caught late in the development cycle (they mention there being 300+ previous bugs in the may 24 patch that were fixed prior to release). Therefore, it would have been easiest to hide him in the game files (since he was mostly completed, having kills/strengths/weaknesses) and "release" him proper in a subsequent patch.

Again, I have nothing to back this up, except speculation and applying occam's razor

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9 minutes ago, Super Ty said:

Anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it seems like they had free reign to add anything from the old movies up UNTIL June 2018. If that is the case, and Uber Jason (and his kills) were completed, and knowing this date was imminent, why did they not just bite the bullet and put him in the game? They did all that work for nothing, and only hackers will ever have access to him.

He is in the game. Right now. Finished. They just need to unlock him. 

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1 minute ago, Charlie Chainsaw said:

He is in the game. Right now. Finished. They just need to unlock him. 

They really, really should.

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Just now, Dolemite said:

They really, really should.

If they don’t, only hackers will have him. And all of us are screwed again. 

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Well according to the press release that they (Gun) put out, they can’t add him to the game, despite the fact that he’s technically already in it. So I’d love to get more details on that. 

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15 minutes ago, Super Ty said:

Anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it seems like they had free reign to add anything from the old movies up UNTIL June 2018. If that is the case, and Uber Jason (and his kills) were completed, and knowing this date was imminent, why did they not just bite the bullet and put him in the game? They did all that work for nothing, and only hackers will ever have access to him.

The really tragic part is that Uber will only have seen the light of day (or dark of night?) because players hacked him into the game.

But this goes back to the stuff we've been accused of being "dicks" over by the devs...Don't announce Uber/Grendel way back in VC 2.0! Huge mistakes made in the game direction department.

This just further stresses the importance of QA. People wouldn't be half as heartbroken if were weren't left with a broken game right now.

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Too many unanswered questions... what’s new right. From what i read it’s anything AFTER june 2018, sonin theory, Uber Jason could still be released in the next almost three weeks. Second, several articles make it sound like this was not a decision forced upon the game makers, but one they just decided to make. If that really is the case, it sounds like they are just using it as an excuse not to make more content and just move on. 

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1 minute ago, cruehitman said:

Too many unanswered questions... what’s new right. From what i read it’s anything AFTER june 2018, sonin theory, Uber Jason could still be released in the next almost three weeks. Second, several articles make it sound like this was not a decision forced upon the game makers, but one they just decided to make. If that really is the case, it sounds like they are just using it as an excuse not to make more content and just move on. 

 

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38 minutes ago, Thatguyinktown said:

Presumably, this includes new Friday the 13th Game Content created post June 2018.

Full court docket from Court Listener:

https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4497508/horror-inc-v-miller/

 

I still think they're just using this lawsuit as an excuse. It's still June, for crying out loud. "Post June" means "after June" aka July 1st. 

#SmokeScreen #Scapegoat #ConvenientExcuse

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It comes across like maybe they had an emergency meeting over the weekend after their latest patch screwed things up even worse again, and decided hell with it, not gonna be able to milk much more from this game and we obviously can’t fix it, so let’s pull the plug and use the court battle as the scapegoat

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They should just unlock Uber Jason in the state he’s in. They owe it to us.This is bullshit, I wanted Uber Jason in the game, fuck Grendel just put Uber in the game. We know by the PC leak that Uber Jason is in playable condition, just release him, as respect to the backers and players who made you millions of dollars.

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2 minutes ago, Jason Todd Voorhees said:

If Sean wins people we are 100% good other then that let's pray and hope Victor Miller doesn't win!

I don't think anyone actually expects Miller to win. The issue is that the case will take forever and by then the game would be dead due to a lack of updates.

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2 minutes ago, Slasher_Clone said:

This sums up everyone of your bitter posts.

Glad you finally figured it out.

Anyone around here who's bothered to get to know me over the last year knows exactly the place those posts are coming from.

I've always wanted this game to be the best game it could be. I've never even really asked for more of anything. I've just wanted what's already there to be functional.

I always viewed this game as sort of a "Xbox Live Arcade" title that we used to get back in the (now) old days. Kinda like how Battlefield 1943 was a simplified version of other BF titles. While there's no AAA version of F13 to compare this to, I just never considered it a AAA title. I've always been accepting of the simplicity of this game. It's a simple game, filled with canned animation and little to no progression.

Where I get bitter is when it becomes very evident that they can't even manage a small game of this nature. I get bitter when every patches makes the game progressively worse, instead of better.  

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Just now, MichaelMemers said:

I don't think anyone actually expects Miller to win. The issue is that the case will take forever and by then the game would be dead due to a lack of updates.

Nah Victor would likely back down and settle out of court.

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9 minutes ago, TheRaven said:

They should just unlock Uber Jason in the state he’s in. They owe it to us.This is bullshit, I wanted Uber Jason in the game, fuck Grendel just put Uber in the game.

As long as they're allowed to continue ironing out bugs, just unlock the buggy Uber in the game, at least then he's there.

Even though he's already there.

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2 minutes ago, DasMurich said:

As long as they're allowed to continue ironing out bugs, just unlock the buggy Uber in the game, at least then he's there.

Even though he's already there.

They have til the end of this month to stop releasing DLC, they can release Uber Jason, the question is will they make an effort to even do it.

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This essentially is the nail in the coffin to kill the game.

Whatever state it is in come the end of the month, is the state it will remain in forever. 

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@Thatguyinktown  Thanks for all the info!  FYI: The "Victor Miller's 45 page summary judgement" link also leads to the Hollywood Reporter article (where I did find the Miller filing).

 

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14 minutes ago, AldermachXI said:

Glad you finally figured it out.

Anyone around here who's bothered to get to know me over the last year knows exactly the place those posts are coming from.

I've always wanted this game to be the best game it could be. I've never even really asked for more of anything. I've just wanted what's already there to be functional.

I always viewed this game as sort of a "Xbox Live Arcade" title that we used to get back in the (now) old days. Kinda like how Battlefield 1943 was a simplified version of other BF titles. While there's no AAA version of F13 to compare this to, I just never considered it a AAA title. I've always been accepting of the simplicity of this game. It's a simple game, filled with canned animation and little to no progression.

Where I get bitter is when it becomes very evident that they can't even manage a small game of this nature. I get bitter when every patches makes the game progressively worse, instead of better.  

In all fairness to you, I remember you remained optimistic a bit longer than a lot of us other backers did. My confidence in Gun started slipping big time after the fiasco with Xbox users getting the shaft with Retro Jason’s release, and it’s been downhill ever since.

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7 minutes ago, MadMike said:

@Thatguyinktown  Thanks for all the info!  FYI: The "Victor Miller's 45 page summary judgement" link also leads to the Hollywood Reporter article (where I did find the Miller filing).

 

Thanks for catching that, it's now been fixed.

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