Friday the 13th Screenwriter Wins Big Victory in Ongoing Legal Battle

From MovieWeb, Jeremy Dick discusses a recent case in which the domestic rights to the movie Friday the 13th hinge, in part, on whether the writer was an employee or independent contractor. Jeremy writes:

In September 2018, Victor Miller won the rights battle against Cunningham, but the decision was promptly appealed. This put the Friday the 13th series on ice for the foreseeable future, and the pandemic only further delayed a final ruling from being made. Now, more than two years after that previous ruling, Miller has come out on top with this latest development. The 2nd Circuit rejected Cunningham’s counter-claim that Miller was an independent contractor who wrote the screenplay and wouldn’t be entitled to the authorship rights.

“The Copyright Act and the NLRA serve altogether different purposes and focus on different economic sectors,” writes Circuit Judge Susan Carney in the decision. “As the Supreme Court explored extensively in Reid, section 101 of the Copyright Act uses a more restrictive definition of employment, one aimed at limiting the contours of the work-for-hire determination and protecting authors-the individual creators of works whose foundational value the Constitution itself recognizes and Congress has expounded upon.”

She added, “In the labor and employment law context, in contrast, the concept of employment is broader, adopting a more sweeping approach suitable to serve workers and their collective bargaining interests and establishing rights (in the NLRA), their safety rights (in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 651, et seq.), and pay rights (in the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq.), for example… That labor law was determined to offer labor protections to independent writers does not have to reduce the protections provided to authors under the Copyright Act.”

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