Terminator is Hit by the Copyright Act!
Over the last few years , we have written a lot about the Copyright Act of 1976, which aims at returning written properties back to its original author. It’s original purpose was to address the ever changing nature of the entertainment industry. When songwriters, screenwriters and authors sold their work to big companies, they did so on the basis on current technology. With the introduction of the internet and streaming media, things have changed and it’s the big companies benefitting from the now more widely available medium. The Copyright Act allows for artist to renegotiate the terms of their contract, by reverting full writes back to the author after a period of 35 years. This has caused a few headaches of recent years, with The Friday the 13th series stuck in limbo whilst screenwriter Victor Miller continues to battle in court.
Miller won a hard-earned victory in U.S. District Court last year, when a judge ruled last year that writer Miller is the sole owner of the original Friday the 13th screenplay (but only in the United States), after Sean Cunningham, the film’s director and the franchise’s owner, claimed that Miller was hired by the studio to write the screenplay, Making him flagged as “work for hire”. However Miller won and Friday the 13th is his. However, the Judge declined to make a ruling on who currently owns the character of “adult Jason Voorhees”, who of only appeared from the second film onwards. This battle is still be thought out in the courts, and until this stalemate is fixed, the Friday the 13th series is dead in the water.
Friday the 13th aside, we are about to see a whole surge of legal proceedings by novelists and screenwriters looking to claw back their copyrights, as films from the 1980s hit that 35 year mark. According to THR, there are already high profile films in the process.
Gary K. Wolf is looking to terminate Disney’s rights to the book that became Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The heirs of Beetlejuice screenwriter Michael McDowell aim to do the same for the script to the 1988 Warner Bros. film. The family of novelist Roderick Thorp is terminating Fox’s grip on Nothing Lasts Forever, aka Die Hard. Other works subject to termination include Predator and Nightmare on Elm Street, with authors like Stephen King and David Mamet also on the warpath.
Stephen King has been quietly reclaiming filming rights for a number of years now, with films such as The Dead Zone, Cujo, Creepshow, Children of the Corn, Cat’s Eye, and Firestarter all back in his control. This is partly why we have a new Creepshow TV series heading our way, something the film studio would not have allowed. The Copyright Act of 1976 is also the reason why we had a Pet Semetery film in 2019, with Paramount fast-tracking the film knowing that they were on the verge of losing the film rights.
The latest victim is 1984’s The Terminator, whose original co-writer Gale Anne Hurd, has moved to terminate the copyright grant. With Terminator: Dark Fate hitting cinemas on November 1st, it quite possible that this could be the last Terminator film connected to the original. If production company Skydance wants another film, they will have to negotiate with James Cameron and Hurd, as they share a 50-50 ownership split on the screenplay. If not, other studios will for sure be interested in taking a stab at the mega franchise. However, Skydance media did respond to THR’s article.
“Skydance has a deal in place with Jim Cameron and controls the rights to the Terminator franchise for the foreseeable future.”
But without Hurd on board, Skydance could be in trouble.
The Copyright Act will of course cause a huge storm in the industry, and whether that’s good or bad for cinemagoers, only time will tell. But what is good, is that the hard working writers and authors will get a chance to profit from a modern world of streaming media.