In a potentially game-changing legal ruling, Clive Barker is set to regain the rights to Hellraiser. Barker, who wrote and directed the 1987 horror classic, had been in a legal battle to regain the rights to his work, not unlike what has been going on with Friday the 13th for several years now. The difference is, Barker has prevailed and is now set to be in control of the future of the franchise, at least in the U.S.
According to a new report, Clive Barker "has successfully leveraged copyright law to recapture the American rights to the franchise." Barker's attorney filed papers in California federal court that confirm a settlement with Park Avenue Entertainment. They are the production company that is currently in possession of the rights to the original Hellraiser. Those rights will now revert to Barker on December 19, 2021.
Hellraiser was based on Clive Barker's novella, The Hellbound Heart. Using the Copyright Act of 1976, specifically the termination provisions of the law, Clive Barker was able to regain control of his creation. The law allows authors to recapture rights from publishers after waiting a certain amount of time, typically around 35 years, by sending a notice within a five-year window. That's what Barker did, though producer Larry Kuppin put up a fight to prevent it from happening. Things will now get complicated when it comes to foreign rights, as this only pertains to U.S. copyright law. And with other authors looking to make similar moves with their works, this could be just the first of many landmark legal decisions that put the rights to franchises back in the hands of the creators.
It is important to note that this only extends to the original Hellraiser. The sequels, which have been produced for years and as recently as 2018, are not owned by Clive Barker. But any future projects will now need to have Clive Barker on board. That could, and we stress could complicate matters for the upcoming movie reboot, which is set to be directed by David Bruckner (The Ritual). Meanwhile, HBO is working on a TV series based on Pinhead and the Cenobites, with David Gordon Green (Halloween) on board to direct. In that case, Barker has boarded as an executive producer, meaning it will surely go ahead as planned.
Friday the 13th has been locked in a legal dispute for years centered around this same issue. Original screenwriter Victor Miller had tried to use the same act to regain the rights. Director Sean S. Cunningham, however, has asserted that Miller was a writer-for-hire. Not only that, but the original 1980 slasher flick only briefly features Jason Voorhees, and not in the way we know him today. As such, the rights could be split up when all's said and done. Miller could own the Friday the 13th name without the iconic version of Jason Voorhees. But that isn't going to be the case with Hellraiser. It's Barker's creation, through and through. This news comes to us via The Hollywood Reporter.