In a surprising development, original creators of the Predator character and story, brothers James E. Thomas and John C. Thomas have filed a motion with the U.S. courts against the Walt Disney Corporation in an attempt to claim their rights to the character back! With production set to kick off next month on Predator 5 (working title SKULLS), this is obviously not a fight Disney plans to back down from...
Deadline have just reported and outlined the lawsuit today and we've summarized the legal jargon for you below.
Basically, there exists a provision of the Copyright Act that reverts rights back to the author(s) after 35 years. The Thomas Brothers are within their right to demand their rights be reverted since it had been 35 years since they created the Predator character and screenplay (originally called Hunters) which they scribed back in 1985, before 20th Century Fox bought the rights for their film adaptation Predator in 1987.
Disney bought 20th Century Fox and all of its film assets, of which Predator was included. Disney have since hired 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg to helm a new Predator film set in the 18th century. The film begins filming next month in Calgary.
In a counter-suit, Disney claims the Thomas brothers missed their opportunity to object to a Termination Notice sent to them by Disney concerning their rights to the Predator character and screenplay. But, the legal counsel representing the Thomas brothers object to these claims and argue that they are still within their rights to contest Disney's action.
Essentially, the Thomas brothers are seeking a new copyright deal with Disney since Disney are attempting to move forward with producing a new movie. Disney is reluctant to give in and argue they have already invested significant time and money into the untitled Predator 5 movie and stick to their claim that the Thomas brothers did not seek proper legal action soon enough.
Disney are not backing down, despite the Thomas brothers' current attempt to delay any work / productions based on their original screenplay until an agreement is reached. This of course could pose a problem for Disney's Predator 5 filming schedule if courts rule in favor of the Thomas brothers' motion.
It doesn't sound like either party are backing down anytime soon. As new developments arise we'll be sure to keep you updated!
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