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How The Friday The 13th Lawsuit Could Impact Marvel's Future

When "Friday the 13th" first arrived in theaters back in 1980, screenwriter Victor Miller probably had no idea that he'd have a legal battle on his hands over 30 years later. The first film follows Alice (Adrienne King), who tries to survive at Camp Crystal Lake when a mysterious serial killer starts slaughtering the camp's counselors. Fans know that Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) doesn't really start his reign of terror until "Friday the 13th: Part 2" and he first dons the iconic hockey mask in 1982's "Part 3" — as part of the script written by Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson, and Petru Popescu.

Although he didn't come up with the idea for the mask, a judge ruled that Victor Miller is the sole owner of the screenplay for the first film under the Copyright Termination act in 2018. Director Sean Cunningham was hoping that the decision would be reversed in an appeal process, but as per The Hollywood Reporter's Eriq Gardner, Miller won the appeal thanks to attorney Marc Toberoff, and the screenwriter will keep the domestic rights to the series. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "Miller was an independent contractor when he wrote the screenplay and is therefore entitled to authorship rights."

This ruling could mean that Disney will have to shell out a lot of money if they want to use a number of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.

Marc Toberoff vs. Marvel

Earlier this year, the estates of several iconic creators like Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and Gene Colan filed suits against Marvel Entertainment over copyright law which says the rights can return to writers after a number of years. Marc Toberoff is representing the various estates in the case, although Disney is counter-suing under the defense that the characters were "work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act's termination provisions do not apply," (via EW). Toberoff clearly knows how to fight for the creators against bigger companies, if the "Friday the 13th" case is now the standard.

What would this mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, the estates are fighting to get the rights back for characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Thor. To continue using them on the big screen, Disney and Marvel would need to make financial agreements with all parties concerned if Earth's Mightiest Heroes ever want to team up again.

Even if Disney and the estates of Ditko, Lee and Colan manage to work out an agreement, the characters in question would likely have some sort of credit in the film saying "by special arrangement with..." This is currently the case for Superman in the DC Universe, whose appearances in comics, TV shows, and movies come with the credit "Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family." This is thanks to attorney Marc Toberoff fighting a similar copyright case for the rights to the Man of Steel.

It's also possible that Toberoff, Disney, and all the estates might settle out of court for a hefty sum and a specific credit, but we'll have to wait and see how this legal conflict resolves itself.