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How Will Disney’s Copyright Lawsuit Affect the Predator Franchise?

April 19, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

“I ain’t got time to bleed.”

Court cases are another matter.

Looks like Disney has a fight on their hands over the rights of the Predator franchise. Currently the rights to the franchise will be held up in court, much like the Friday The 13th rights, with a long legal battle ahead. 

The original 1987 movie writers, Jim and John Thomas, are suing to reclaim Predator from Disney, who owns the franchise after purchasing Fox. according to The Hollywood Reporter.

For those keeping score, this case is very similar to Victor Miller suing Sean Cunningham over the rights to the Friday The 13th franchise. Miller won…or maybe not as the case is stuck in the appeals stage in the California legal system. 

“There now exists between the parties an actual and justiciable controversy concerning the validity of Notice One and 20th Century’s and defendants’ respective rights,” says Disney’s own court filing by Daniel Petrocelli and his fellow lawyers at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

What does that mean exactly?

Deadline had reported back in November 2020, that the now Disney-owned 20th Century Studios had a fifth installment of the Predator franchise on the slate to be directed by Dan Trachtenberg from a script by Patrick Aison. 

James and John Thomas put the breaks on that. “In 2016, the Thomas brothers properly availed themselves of their right under Section 203(a) of the Copyright Act to recover the copyright to their literary material by serving and recording with the U.S. Copyright Office within the prescribed statutory window, a notice of termination with an effective termination date of April 17, 2021,” asserts a filing seeking declaratory relief made in federal court Thursday against Disney and various subsidiaries.

Those darn Copyright Laws! Looks like the brothers wrote a spec script called Hunters in 1984 that 20th Century Fox purchased two years later and put out as Predator in 1987. That movie made almost $100 million at the box office and influenced a number of other movies. 

Here’s where you need to pay attention. The brothers are now looking to utilize the provision of the Copyright Act that reverts rights back to the author(s). As expected, Disney isn’t cool with that. 

“For four and one-half (4½) years after the Termination Notice was served, Defendants did not object to it in any respect,” the 12-page document seeking a jury trial continues. “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.”

Bottonline, we won’t be seeing another Predator movie for a while. Which is a shame since it was a concept that had a lot of potential yet seemed to have a hard time harnessing it for box office success. The most recent one in 2018 received mixed reviews but went on to make $160 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing movie in the franchise. Even the Alien vs Predator franchise didn’t nail what should have been a homerun at the box office. 

Now we wait for the court battle but it seems it will be quite a while before Predator resurfaces with another chapter. 

article topics :

Predator, Steve Gustafson