Predator Writers Reach Settlement With Disney in Copyright Lawsuit

Jim and John Thomas, the screenwriters of 1987's Predator and 1990's Predator 2, have reached a settlement with The Walt Disney Company over the copyright of the iconic film franchise, which the Thomas brothers attempted to terminate last year using current copyright laws that allow creators to terminate the transfer of a copyright after 35 years.

However, it is unclear what the precise state of the Predator copyright is following this settlement, as the only statement released so far came from Marc Toberoff, of Toberoff & Associates, the lawyer for the Thommases (Toberoff is one of the most notable intellectual property lawyers in the country. He has previously represented the estates of both Jack Kirby and Jerome Siegel against Marvel and DC, respectively), who noted, “All of the parties voluntarily dismissed their claims following an amicable resolution of the matters in dispute.”

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The concept of termination notices for copyrights is based on the idea that the originators of a notable work should be able to get, in effect, a second crack at being compensated for their original work after 35 years. This is different from works produced as "work for hire," which would not apply here, since the Thomas brothers wrote the original Predator screenplay on "spec," meaning that they wrote it first before they cut any deal with a movie studio. They then sold the screenplay to 20th Century Fox in 1984, with the resulting film based on the screenplay released in 1987.

Note that copyright is different from trademark and Disney (who purchased 20th Century Fox in 2019, with Fox's varied intellectual property rights being a key component to the deal) still maintains the trademark to the Predator, making it very difficult for anyone to make a rival Predator film. Therefore, the only realistic scenario following termination would be for the Thomases to work out a new licensing deal with Disney. The brothers even admitted as much in their termination, explaining that they will now “at long last, participate in the financial rewards of their creation.”

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Disney, however, took issue with the timing of the Thomases' termination, feeling that it was premature based on the statutes, so as soon as the brothers filed the termination, Disney filed a countersuit, noting that it was especially bothered because the company was in the midst of releasing a Predator film reboot, as the counter lawsuit explained, “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,”

With the settlement reached, the Predator reboot, titled Prey, appears to be clear for its release this Summer on Disney's Hulu streaming service.

KEEP READING: Predator: Before the Prequel, Here’s Everything to Know About the Aliens’ Origin

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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Brian Cronin (15317 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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