The screenwriters of the original 1987 movie Predator, Jim and John Thomas, have registered a lawsuit against Disney and are looking to regain the rights to the franchise. It’s always a long move to try and sue Disney, and Disney’s 20th Century unit has already registered its own suit against the Thomas brothers so that they can retain the rights.
There’s a new Predator movie in development that is being directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane).
The Thomas Bros. are seeking to exploit the copyright law which allows authors to cancel transfers after a specific period of time, which is typically 35 years. This is roughly the time since Predator was released, and this means that other studios are also facing the prospect of losing franchise rights to several classic films from the 1980s.
According to the complaint, the effective termination date for their screenplay, which was originally titled Hunters, is April 17, which is this Saturday. Jim and John Thomas have been preparing to get the rights back for some time as they served termination to Fox notice all the way back in 2016 and for most of that time they didn’t hear any objection.
THR explained, “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.”
In response, the Thomas brothers served alternative notices of termination with later effective termination dates. Disney wasn’t satisfied so the Thomas brothers are now seeking declaratory relief, which means they are seeking an official declaration regarding the status of the issue.
As far as Disney’s suit goes, it 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 complaint says, “20th Century seeks a declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 that defendants’ notices of termination are invalid. This action is necessary because defendants are improperly attempting to prematurely terminate 20th Century’s rights to the Hunters Screenplay, at the very time that 20th Century is investing substantial time, money, and effort in developing another installment in its successful Predator franchise.”