Jim and John Thomas, the screenwriting duo who wrote the 1987 action movie Predator, want the rights to the franchise to get back to the choppa. The Thomas brothers are suing Disney to recapture the rights to the franchise, while Disney’s 20th Century Studios has filed its own suit to retain the rights to the sci-fi action series.
A wrench might have just been thrown in the plans for 20th Century Studios’ new Predator movie from Dan Trachtenberg. Jim and John Thomas, seeking to exploit the copyright law which allows authors to cancel transfers after a specific period of time (namely 35 years — which is roughly the time since Predator‘s 1987 release), are suing Disney to reclaim the rights to Predator.
This copyright law provision means that many studios, Disney and 20th Century Studios included, could lose franchise rights to many classic 1980s movies, per The Hollywood Reporter.
But the Thomas brothers are going up against the biggest corporate behemoth in the entertainment industry. So of course Disney’s 20th Century Studios has filed its own suits against the Thomas brothers in an attempt to retain the Predator rights.
According to the Thomas’ complaint, the effective termination date for their screenplay (originally titled Hunters) is this Saturday, April 17. Jim and John Thomas say they served a termination notice back in 2016, and heard no objection for four and a half years.
“Then, in early January 2021, Defendants’ counsel unexpectedly contacted Plaintiffs’ counsel, contesting the Termination Notice as supposedly untimely, based on a theory that the 1986 Grant of the Screenplay underlying their Predator films allegedly qualified for the special, delayed termination time ‘window’ in 17 U.S.C. § 203(a)(3), intended for ‘book publication’ grants,” the Thomas’ stated in their complaint.
So the Thomas brothers served alternative notices of termination with later dates. Now the brothers are seeking declaratory relief, which means they are seeking an official declaration regarding the status of the issue.
Disney’s 20th Century Studios filed its own lawsuit, which states: “While federal statutory copyright law endows certain grantors, like defendants [the Thomas brothers], with copyright termination rights, such rights may only be exercised in accordance with the statute’s requirements, including provisions delineating when termination notices may be served and when the termination of rights becomes effective. Defendants’ notices fail to comply with these statutory requirements and are invalid as a matter of law.”
The brothers are represented by Marc Toberoff, a bit of a specialist in copyright termination who represented the Friday the 13th writer (which he won) and went up against Warner Bros. over the rights to Superman (which he lost). With this kind of David vs. Goliath case though, we can probably expect the House of Mouse to prevail.
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