James P. Flynn, Managing Director of the Firm and Member in the Litigation and Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practices, in the firm’s Newark office, authored an article in ILN IP Insider, titled “The Paraskavedekatriaphobia Precedent: Why Friday the 13th Decision Raises Fear of Slashing Long-Held Copyrights.”

Following is an excerpt:

Admittedly, the second word in that title is a mouthful—but Paraskavedekatriaphobia is a real word, with an etymology and definition.  It even has a synonym, friggatriskaidekaphobia.  Each means “fear of Friday the 13th.”    Though I am tempted to write this October piece about Halloween (whether it is the day or the movies by that name, including one out again this season), I cut over instead to a different set of haunts and howls caught on film.  (But I will pause along the way to note that the Seuss/Star Trek mash-up case about which I have written before has recently settled, which I had to mention, of course.)

Fear of a weekend kicking off a baker’s dozen (or perhaps in this post more fittingly, to take another movie’s name, a “Devil’s Dozen”) days into the month is a phobia upon which the well-known 1980 horror film Friday The 13th played.  That film started a forty-plus-year, multi-film “iconic horror movie franchise,” as Dan Grant notes.  And, in part, the central conceit of the film rested in, and was reflected by, the equally, now archetypal, famous last scene of the first 1980 film:

“’Jason’ …emerges from the depths of the lake as a disfigured child, and reaches out of the water to pull one of the main protagonists into the lake.”–Horror Inc. et al v. Victor Miller (hereafter at times “Op.”) (2d Cir. 2021), at 7-8.

“[T]he music is serene and reassuring, the lake is calm, the weather is beautiful and everything seems like it’s going to be okay for the poor girl after her horrific ordeal.  And then a corpse filled with seaweed and mucus, emerges from the lake to take Alice down with him…It’s one of the most unexpected and terrifying moments of the entire Friday the 13th franchise.” –Dan Grant, The 13 Greatest Moments In The “Friday The 13th” Movies.

It is a defining scene included in Dan Grant’s list of greatest moments, in part, because it was so unexpected and jarring.  Yet it foretold so well the predictable retellings, sequels, and possibilities to follow—no matter how well the fight had been fought and how well the protagonists had defended themselves, Jason could come out of the lake.

But the scene is in many ways also, now, not only iconic but ironic.  This scene was suggested (and indeed demanded) by someone who got no writing credit on the film and was accorded no copyright rights as an author. Op. at 7-8, 28-29. Nevertheless, that scene is now a fitting metaphor depicting how screenwriter Victor Miller has emerged from beneath, and behind, the scenes to claw back copyright rights over the decades-old franchise and its intricate ever-evolving story.  This post, therefore, analyzes the September 30, 2021 decision of the United States Court of Appeals in Horror Inc. et al v. Victor Miller, explains why there should be some fear of “the Friday the 13th precedent,” and how perhaps to combat those fears.  Though the exact origins of the general fear of Friday the 13th are unclear at best (with a few common, interesting theories), the legal story in the United States and a few other countries have a clear, if underpublicized, origin.

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