Jim and John Thomas, the brothers who wrote the 1987 action film Predator, have filed a lawsuit against Disney seeking confirmation of the successful recovery of rights to the franchise. Meanwhile, Disney’s 20th-century unit has filed its own lawsuit against the Thomas Brothers in an attempt to retain the rights.
The Thomas Brothers seek to exploit the copyright law’s termination provision, which allows authors to reverse transfers after a waiting period, typically 35 years for newer works. Given the schedule, studios face the prospect of losing franchise rights to many iconic works from the 1980s.
Predator played Arnold Schwarzenegger and spawned three sequels plus the spinoff series Alien vs. Predator. Apparently Disney is considering a reboot with 10 Cloverfield Way director Dan Trachtenberg at the helm.
Such Disney plans can run into a hurdle in the form of termination. According to the complaint, the effective end date for their screenplay (originally titled “Hunters”) is April 17, this Saturday.
Jim and John Thomas say they have served a termination notice since 2016 – and for four and a half years have heard no objections.
As stated in their complaint, “Then, in early January 2021, counsel for the defendants unexpectedly contacted counsel for the plaintiffs, challenging the notice of termination as allegedly untimely, on the basis of a theory that the granting of the 1986 scenario underlying their Predator the films would have qualified for the special, deferred end-of-contract “window” in 17 USC § 203 (a) (3), intended for “book publication” grants.
In response, the Thomas brothers said they served further termination notices with subsequent effective termination dates. That didn’t satisfy Disney, so the Thomas brothers are now asking for a declaratory judgment. They are represented by Marc Toberoff, who has been somewhat of a specialist in copyright termination and has notably represented the Friday 13 writer in a judicial victory (appeal pending). (The complaint is below.)
Hours after the Thomas brothers filed the case, Disney’s 20th century division had its own lawsuit ready to go.
“While federal copyright law confers on certain licensors, such as defendants [the Thomas brothers], along with copyright termination rights, these rights may only be exercised in accordance with the requirements of the law, including the provisions delineating when notices of termination may be served and when termination of rights becomes effective, ”says the 20th century complaint. “The opinions of the defendants do not meet these legal requirements and are invalid in law. “
Disney’s 20th Century is represented by star O’Melveny litigator Daniel Petrocelli, Molly Lens and Kendall Turner.
About ten years ago, on behalf of Warner Bros., Petrocelli fought Toberoff for the rights of Superman. This case went on for years and got very nasty with allegations that Toberoff had violated rights in tort. Ultimately, Warner Bros. prevailed.
The two are now returning to the legal ring Predator.
“The 20th Century seeks a declaration under 28 USC § 2201 that the defendants’ termination notices are invalid,” the 20th Century complaint continues. “This action is necessary because the defendants are improperly attempting to prematurely end the 20th century rights to the Hunters Scenario, just as the 20th century is investing a lot of time, money and effort into developing another part of its success Predator franchise.”
04/15 4:55 PM This post has been updated with news from the 20th century trial.