Hellraiser Franchise Rights Could Revert to Clive Barker

For horror fans that know about the turmoil cast on the Friday the 13th feature film franchise, the same fate might soon befall another beloved horror series which has been gearing up for an ambitious future, the Hellraiser series. To sum it up briefly, Section 203 of the Copyright Act (within a set criteria of conditions) allows for authors to file a "notice of termination" for any copyright assignments and licenses after the year 1978, allowing for things like the feature film rights to a book, novel, or screenplay to revert back to the original writer rather than to languish in development hell or in an unending cycle of sequels (or for other reasons with regard to music or other pieces of media). The Friday the 13th franchise was the first of these to be highly publicized and now it looks like author Clive Barker has come up to reclaim his novel and his movie rights.

As pointed out by attorney (and former Friday the 13th star) Larry Zerner (H/T Bloody Disgusting), Barker has filed for a declaratory judgment that will allow for him to terminate the rights to his novel The Hellbound Heart and the screenplay he wrote for the original Hellraiser feature film. If Barker's judgement and his termination notice is granted, the notice he's filed would mean the rights would revert back to him in December of 2021, meaning any new adaptation or sequel/reboot of his work would need to be made in conjunction with him at that point.

It's worth noting that big plans are in the works for the Hellraiser series, both on the big screen and on television. Previously it was announced that director David Bruckner and writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski have been tapped to reboot the property as a feature film, while HBO has ordered a pilot based on the Hellrasier mythology from Halloween director David Gordon Green and writers Mark Verheiden (Battlestar Gallactica, Daredevil) and Michael Dougherty (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Trick r’ Treat).

So will any of these projects happen? Perhaps. If either of them can be created and released between now and December 19, 2021, they would be perfectly within their legal rights to do so. There's also the possibility that a deal is made between Barker and the parties developing these projects that would give them the right to be made beyond that date. Frankly for the time being we're in "wait and see" mode as outside observers to this legal jargon.

Hellraiser has long been a franchise that pushed the limits of copyright parameters, as the Weinsteins and Dimension Films made two very poorly received sequels all in the name of maintaining the rights to the series. This latest development, while perhaps dooming future movies after 2021, does mark a potential major win for Barker who has seen a film franchise stray further and further from his original text with each new movie.

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