Columbia Pictures Settles Copyright Lawsuit Over Rights to ‘Bad Boys’ Story

By Chanak Maduranga

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Columbia Pictures Settles Copyright Lawsuit Over Rights to ‘Bad Boys’ Story
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Columbia Pictures and George Gallo, who wrote the story that was developed into the 1995 action hit Bad Boys, have settled a lawsuit over the rights to the movie franchise.

Both sides, in a joint court filing on Friday, notified the court of a settlement. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Bad Boys, which marked Michael Bay’s first feature and starred Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, has spawned three sequels and a TV spinoff. A fourth installment to the franchise debuted last week to strong box office numbers.

Columbia Pictures argued in a lawsuit filed last year that Gallo can’t exploit a provision in copyright law that allows authors to claw back ownership of their works after a certain period of time. It asked the court for a declaration that Gallo penned the story as a work made-for-hire, which would make it ineligible for termination.

When word of Bad Boys 4 broke out, Gallo served the studio with termination notices that purported to terminate the assignment of his copyrights to both Columbia Pictures and Sweet Revenge Productions, his production entity. He claimed Columbia Pictures lost its U.S. rights as of June 27, 2022, to make new works based on his 1985 story that Bad Boys is based on, called Bulletproof Hearts.

Under U.S. copyright law, authors can recapture their rights to previously transferred copyrights after waiting a period of time. High-profile legal battles have been waged over the rights to iconic franchises birthed in the 1980s, including Top Gun, Predator, Terminator and Friday the 13th.

Works made-for-hire, however, aren’t subject to termination, which was the thrust of Columbia’s argument in its lawsuit.

According to the complaint, Gallo represented that he “created and/or wrote the Story as an employee-for-hire of” Sweet Revenge.

Gallo argued that he had personal rights to the story that he subsequently assigned to Sweet Revenge. Columbia challenged the representation, alleging that the writer in his termination notice “for the first time ever asserted to Columbia Pictures that on September 23, 1985 — just one day before he and Sweet Revenge made the Agreement — Gallo had assigned his purportedly personal rights in the Story” to his company.

The complaint added, “Gallo cannot have it both ways: he cannot make representations to induce the purchase of the Story and then avoid the consequences of later claiming the representations were false.”

The widespread use of entities such as Sweet Revenge — used by artists to create copyrighted works as employees of their own corporations — weren’t considered in the 1976 Copyright Act’s restrictions on termination rights. Such companies provide creators a variety of advantages, including substantial tax benefits and limitations on personal liability.

Chanak Maduranga

passionate journalist behind 'USA News Now 24', dedicated to delivering timely and accurate updates on US affairs. Committed to journalistic integrity and informing audiences with credible news coverage.

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