Disney Could Lose Movie Rights After Lawsuit Defeat

The original writers of the 1987 horror-chase film Predator — a cult favorite starring Arnold Schwarzenegger — want the rights to the film back, and they’re suing Disney to win them. The legal battle ahead is expected to be long and arduous, but neither side plans to back down. Before Disney, Fox owned the rights to the movie. But then Fox was purchased by Disney.

Trademark lawyer Daniel Petrocelli and colleagues O’Melveny & Myers LLP filed a ruling that said, “There now exists between parties an actual and justiciable controversy concerning the validity of Notice One and 20th Century’s and defendants’ respective rights.”

Did you catch that?

No, neither did we. But don’t worry, we did the research later. At the time Disney purchased Fox Studios, there was another planned Predator movie in the queue. It never came, because of Section 203(a) of the Copyright Act.

Writers James and John Thomas made a declaratory relief filing in federal court: “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.”

When the brothers made the filing, they requested a jury trial to sort things out. Disney fought back. The brothers proclaimed: “For four and one-half…years after the Termination Notice was served, Defendants did not object to it in any respect. 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.”

Like Predator? Don’t expect to see another one for many years, or at least while this courtroom debacle is ongoing.

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