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The screenwriters behind the original Predator movie and Disney’s 20th Century Studios have agreed to a confidential settlement to drop dueling copyright lawsuits over the rights to the script.
The motion seeking dismissal of the litigation filed in California federal court Wednesday follows a notice filed Dec. 16 that the parties resolved claims regarding an attempt by brothers John and James Thomas to recapture their rights to the screenplay.
Marc Toberoff, of Toberoff & Associates, who represents the brothers, said: “All of the parties voluntarily dismissed their claims following an amicable resolution of the matters in dispute.” He declined to comment on details of the deal.
The brothers wrote the screenplay in 1984 and sold it two years later to 20th Century Fox, which released Predator in 1987. They sued the studio last year, alleging it wrongly denied their bid to terminate its rights to the script.
The U.S. Copyright Act allows authors to recapture their ownership rights after waiting a period of time, typically 35 years for newer works, by terminating prior transfers.
The brothers claimed that new Predator works would simply require a license from them, allowing them to “at long last, participate in the financial rewards of their creation.” They emphasized that they wrote the screenplay “on spec,” with no guarantee of compensation or input from the studio.
If a work is “made for hire,” the employer, in this case 20th Century, is considered the legal author, according to copyright law.
Disney’s 20th Century filed its own lawsuit within hours of the brothers filing their complaint. The studio alleged that the copyright termination notice sought to prematurely cut off its rights.
“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,” reads the lawsuit.
The litigation was fought as Disney forged ahead with plans for a reboot of Predator, which has spawned three sequels and the spinoff movie series Alien vs. Predator.
Studios have increasingly been turning to court as the Copyright Act’s termination rule threatens to transfer ownership of iconic movies, including The Terminator, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Die Hard, back to their original owners.
Victor Miller, who wrote the screenplay of the original Friday the 13th, is set to reclaim his rights to the franchise after a federal appeals court affirmed a win for him in a copyright dispute.
Disney and its attorney Daniel Petrocelli, a partner at O’Melveny and Myers LLP, declined to comment.
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