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(c) 2011 by [fades]

So right now I'm doing lots and lots of work with copyright, permissions, et cetera. Most of the authors I'm trying to get reprint permissions for are quite dead.

I'm not much of a fan of astrology, because things are generally universally applicable, but the Pisces trait I most resonate to is beginning every long paragraph with "well, I'm of two minds about this." That, and being kind of crazy, but that's most of the signs.

Anyway, my car conversation this morning was public domain vs. corporate protection of copyrighted materials. Mickey Mouse was the main example character--if American copyright law was reasonable, he'd be in the public domain. But I think I would personally side with Disney on this--the most frustrating aspect of copyright law for me right now is "squatters" like the MLK, Jr. estate, who are drawing revenue for work they never actually did, and tend to refuse to work with individuals they can't get money from.

I don't really see the Mouse as doing that, though - they're still actively using and developing the brand of Mickey, Tinkerbell, Snow White, and so on. It's not something that's lying fallow. The characters are still developing, still in use.

The degree to which this entire thing runs parallel to the "corporations as individuals" is very strong.

Unfortunately, the laws governing public domain (as opposed to fair use) don't make an exception or recognition of transformative use, as opposed to simple theft or mimicry or out-and-out reproduction (for instance, no-one that was involved in the production of Laural and Hardy in the most distanct sense--grandchildren, the studio, etc--makes any money off the re-sale of their skits in a "Comedy Golden Greats" boxed set. There's something that's creatively barren there. But a mash-up artist transforms and expands on the work s/he co-opts, at least at the best of times.)

I do tend to side with institutions more than individuals, though.

This free-form ramble brought to you by the letters B and D, and by the number 224.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 19th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
I personally think that copyrights should be for the lifetime of the artist, plus 25 years. That's it. Period. End of line.

As it stands today, the copyrights owned by a corporation get reset anytime the material gets used. So, you have 50 years of nothing, then suddenly, a brand new direct-to-landfill Peter Pan movie, just so the studio doesn't give up the rights to Peter Pan. It's possible that Disney will have total control of Peter Pan (which they didn't create) and Pooh (which they also didn't create) until the end of the world, resetting the clock over and over again. It wasn't meant to be this way.

I'm a writer, and I'm all for being paid for my work. But I also don't believe that companies should own copyrights, rather that they merely own publication rights. The rights to the works should be always in the hands of the creators that made it. Not in the hands of Disney lawyers. If the rights for Mickey had been run like this, we wouldn't have incidents where Disney sues daycares for having anything with three circles on the wall like we have today.

I'm a big believer in copyrights. But only when they are in the hands of people, not corporations. Because corporations don't create anything -- only people do.
Apr. 19th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
The corporations squatting on characters that they have no business "owning" is pretty odious, I'll grant. In an ideal world derivative and transformational permission would be easier to obtain. Disney's probably the most irritating example because they're such utter bastards on the "protecting the brand" front.

Feh. American copyright is such a weird mix of grays and absolutes. "Fair Use" isn't actually a right, but a vague defense that only holds water if you're not worth sueing--and there are so many clauses and conditions that the layperson (which most artists are) wouldn't be able to understand its application.
Apr. 19th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
Disney does not own Peter Pan. GOSH does.

GOSH was given Peter Pan by Barrie after the play was published, and they retain those rights as long as the title is protected by copyright law. They have sold two licenses for film adaptations: One to Disney for animated features, and one to Sony/Columbia for live-action features.

The play itself is still wholly owned by GOSH, as was the will of the author. That copyright expired in 2007 in the EU, and in 2023 in the US.

Meanwhile, the US copyright for the novel (which was published in the US well before the play was officially published here) has expired, putting the novel in the public domain.

As a result, the characters themselves are in the public domain in all mediums, so NEW works using those characters are fair game for anyone. The story itself is still under copyright. And Disney shoveling out a new Peter Pan direct-to-DVD title doesn't reset the clock on the older content. It only establishes the copyright on NEW content. Tinkerbell, as drawn by Disney, still enters the public domain in 2048 -- no matter how many shitty movies Disney puts out with her in it before then.

Names and logos are a different matter. Titling a story "Peter Pan" touches on GOSH's copyright of the story, and Disney's trademark on their media franchise. But writing a novel about Peter Pan, and featuring the character, is fair game.

Pooh's....murky, to say the least. From the research I've done, it definitely looks like Disney's being a bit crooked when it comes to the franchise and resulting royalties. But the amount of control they actually have over Peter Pan is very small.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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