While Halloween brings to mind jack-o’-lanterns and spooky scary skeletons, some major horror movie franchises have had their spines tingle from the terrors of copyright infringement. From Friday the 13th to The Stuff, horror films and parodies alike have caused courts to wrestle with difficult copyright issues. We bring you some standout horror movie copyright cases and their interesting implications to the law.
Effects Associates, Inc. v. Cohen (1990) – Right to Use a Copyrighted Work
Effects Associates, a special effects company, sued Cohen, a moviemaker, for copyright infringement when he used their footage without providing proper compensation or receiving a written license or assignment of copyright. The 9th Circuit analyzed whether a transfer of copyright without a written agreement, which is apparently not uncommon in the motion picture industry, followed the Copyright Act’s requirements.
Cohen created a satirical horror movie called The Stuff. Primarily, Effects Associates created the dramatic end scene where the Stuff factory, which manufactured an alien life form that looked and tasted like frozen yogurt, explodes. The two parties made an oral agreement for production of the special effects shoots, but they did not discuss copyright ownership.