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  1. #1
    Mighty Member
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    Default Happy Public Domain Day!

    Happy Public Domain Day!

    Okay, if you're confused, let me explain. Back in 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. This law changed copyright law in the United States so that the term of copyright was extended to the life of the author plus 75 years, 120 years after creation for works by a corporate author or 95 years from publication (whichever comes first). This law was heavily championed by the Disney company as the cartoon Steamboat Willie was set to enter the public domain and they wanted to extend copyright to "protect" the character of Mickey Mouse. However, as a result of the law also being made retroactive, the end result is that nothing has entered the public domain in the United States in 20 years. That ends today, though. Starting today, works once again start entering the public domain, starting with works created in 1923 and before. So, creative types have unfettered access to them for adaptation and remix purposes. Some of the works that enter the public domain today include Cecil B. Demille's biblical epic The Ten Commandments, the Harold Lloyd silent comedy Safety Last and various Felix the Cat cartoons.
    TenCommandments.jpg SafetyLast.jpg FelixtheCat.jpg

    So, today the American public becomes the owner of a couple of famous pieces of cinema history.

  2. #2
    Fantastic Member Flashback's Avatar
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    Happy Public Domain!!!

    (And thanks for the explanation)

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member AJBopp's Avatar
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    How very sad. RIP common sense.
    Why yes, I AM a Mark Goodson/Bill Toddman production.

  4. #4
    A Wearied Madness Vakanai's Avatar
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    So how much longer until the law needs to be updated to keep the copyright going strong for Mickey?

    I personally think a purely time-based approach to copyright isn't the best method. For many things it works, but I don't want to see the day where Mickey Mouse or Superman or other such characters fall outside the domain of companies still producing content. I think whether or not a property is still actively in use and production might be a better measure for these things. But that's just me.

  5. #5
    Incredible Member Comic-Reader Lad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vakanai View Post
    So how much longer until the law needs to be updated to keep the copyright going strong for Mickey?

    I personally think a purely time-based approach to copyright isn't the best method. For many things it works, but I don't want to see the day where Mickey Mouse or Superman or other such characters fall outside the domain of companies still producing content. I think whether or not a property is still actively in use and production might be a better measure for these things. But that's just me.

    The problem with that is that it would favor corporate owners of work-for-hire, and not independent authors. That protection that you describe is really covered by trademark laws, anyway.

    For ongoing characters like Mickey Mouse or Superman, the lapse into public domain doesn't cover ownership of the underlying character. Disney will always own Mickey Mouse, and DC will always own Superman.

    When Steamboat Willie lapses, the only thing that the public will have access to is THAT particular cartoon. They can sell it and use the character and story elements in it to create derivative works (but only with Mickey and Minnie -- Pluto would still be protected until HIS first appearance lapsed). Even selling a copy of Steamboat Willie might be tricky because Disney still owns THEIR prints of the cartoon. They don't have to surrender their films to the public. It's different for a book where someone could just copy the text of, say, Dracula, and print their own copy (and by putting a new cover and introduction, they can copyright THEIR package of the Dracula book).

    Anyway, because Disney has trademarked the name "Mickey Mouse," no one could call their derivative work "Mickey Mouse." It will be very much like the "Captain Marvel" thing between Marvel and DC. If you can find a copy of Steamboat Willie that somehow Disney does not own, you could sell it, but you might not be able to include the Mickey Mouse name on the cover and the image of Mickey on YOUR video cover would have to come from a Steamboat Willie still frame.

    I'm a little fuzzy on this because some collections of public domain cartoons DID contain the name of the character (like all those Fleischer-Superman collections), but I do remember some public domain collections of Superman or other characters specifically saying that the cover image comes from an image from the public domain cartoons themselves.

    Anyway, the upshot is that corporate characters will always be owned by the corporation under the existing laws, so I don't see the merit to changing them where they would only benefit corporations and not individual authors who write a book or series of books and then let it end.

  6. #6
    Extraordinary Member Zero Hunter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vakanai View Post
    So how much longer until the law needs to be updated to keep the copyright going strong for Mickey?

    I personally think a purely time-based approach to copyright isn't the best method. For many things it works, but I don't want to see the day where Mickey Mouse or Superman or other such characters fall outside the domain of companies still producing content. I think whether or not a property is still actively in use and production might be a better measure for these things. But that's just me.
    I agree with that.

  7. #7
    Extraordinary Member Malvolio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdamFTF View Post
    Happy Public Domain Day!

    Okay, if you're confused, let me explain. Back in 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. This law changed copyright law in the United States so that the term of copyright was extended to the life of the author plus 75 years, 120 years after creation for works by a corporate author or 95 years from publication (whichever comes first). This law was heavily championed by the Disney company as the cartoon Steamboat Willie was set to enter the public domain and they wanted to extend copyright to "protect" the character of Mickey Mouse. However, as a result of the law also being made retroactive, the end result is that nothing has entered the public domain in the United States in 20 years. That ends today, though. Starting today, works once again start entering the public domain, starting with works created in 1923 and before. So, creative types have unfettered access to them for adaptation and remix purposes. Some of the works that enter the public domain today include Cecil B. Demille's biblical epic The Ten Commandments, the Harold Lloyd silent comedy Safety Last and various Felix the Cat cartoons.
    TenCommandments.jpg SafetyLast.jpg FelixtheCat.jpg

    So, today the American public becomes the owner of a couple of famous pieces of cinema history.
    I think the thumbnail of the Ten Commandments is not the one in question here. It looks to be a poster for the 1956 film starring Charlton Heston. The one that just went into public domain is the 1923 silent film. Cecil B. DeMille directed both versions.

  8. #8
    I buried Ponce. Personamanx's Avatar
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    Excellent, hopefully this continues well into the future. The public domain is a beautiful thing.
    Continuity, even in a "shared" comics universe is often insignificant if not largely detrimental to the quality of a comic.

    Die - Paper Girls - Pathfinder - Runaways - Umbrella Academy - Wonder Twins

    Nobody cares about what you don't like, they barely care about what you do like.

  9. #9
    Astonishing Member Güicho's Avatar
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    Eh most this stuff can be found online free anyway, as far as these old films go ahead track the original prints, repackage it and try and sell it. LOL!
    Splash your name on the package and call it your version. You better include some unique extras, or something worth paying for.

    You own a vintage movie theater, or network by all means re-broadcast those films, for profit (if you can) , or free, Don't care who owned them If you promise a high quality print and broadcast I'de gladly pay you or anyone to see them on screen.
    That's a tiny audience who cares about it in hi quality though or seeing it broadcast.
    What's making your version different, that someone will pay you? Again most of this you can already find (low to hi quality) free.

    As far as Felix above, sure copy and reprint his original adventures, if it's hi quality reproduction I might buy your copy vs John Doe's reproduction of the same original material.
    Same for the Felix animations.
    Who ever does the better job may profit.

    But that doesn't automatically mean you can produce and profit off new material with this character does it? If there is still trade marks on him?

    But by all means "copy" reprint / broadcast and profit from the old stuff, good luck!

    As far as Harold Loyd's likeness in a new film, by another actor, or cg'd? Or to sell some garbage product that has nothing to do with him? That's s fine.
    Hardly seems like a victory though.
    How about you come up with your own character.
    Last edited by Güicho; 01-01-2019 at 08:07 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malvolio View Post
    I think the thumbnail of the Ten Commandments is not the one in question here. It looks to be a poster for the 1956 film starring Charlton Heston. The one that just went into public domain is the 1923 silent film. Cecil B. DeMille directed both versions.
    Whoops!

    It's not the first mistake I made regarding what goes down today. I had thought for a while that the book Bambi by Felix Salten would go into the public domain too. It turns out that while the German copyright was filed in 1923, the American copyright wasn't filed until 1926. So, it won't be in the public domain until 2022. Intellectual property law can be a bit complicated. So, sorry if I make any further mistakes.

    I know this might not mean a lot to some people. But being in the public domain and available to everyone is something that helps classic characters stay relevant. Can you imagine if people had to negotiate licenses and pay money to the latest descendant of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle every time someone used Sherlock Holmes? Or if someone needed to pay the still existing estate of Bram Stoker every time someone wanted to use Dracula? The characters would be used a lot less. Heck, the public domain has rescued movies from obscurity. It's a Wonderful Life did poorly when it was first released. So poorly that no one bothered renewing the copyright when it came up for renewal. So, it lapsed into the public domain. What this meant was that television stations didn't have to pay money to air it. So, cash-strapped TV stations started airing it every Christmas. The repeated airings turned the movie into a tradition and thus a Christmas classic.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member Güicho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdamFTF View Post
    Can you imagine if people had to negotiate licenses and pay money to the latest descendant of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle every time someone used Sherlock Holmes? Or if someone needed to pay the still existing estate of Bram Stoker every time someone wanted to use Dracula? The characters would be used a lot less.
    There would also be allot less garbage produced debasing the characters and concepts if they actually had to pay or get approval to use them.
    But don't get me wrong, if it's legit lapsed, I'm in favor of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by AdamFTF View Post
    Heck, the public domain has rescued movies from obscurity. It's a Wonderful Life did poorly when it was first released. So poorly that no one bothered renewing the copyright when it came up for renewal. So, it lapsed into the public domain. What this meant was that television stations didn't have to pay money to air it. So, cash-strapped TV stations started airing it every Christmas. The repeated airings turned the movie into a tradition and thus a Christmas classic.
    As far as reviving re-brodcasting or bringing old lapsed films back into the public, again see above, I'm absolutely in favor of it.
    Especially if the copyright holder, wan't putting it out there.
    Last edited by Güicho; 01-02-2019 at 09:53 AM.

  12. #12
    Death becomes you Osiris-Rex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comic-Reader Lad View Post
    The problem with that is that it would favor corporate owners of work-for-hire, and not independent authors. That protection that you describe is really covered by trademark laws, anyway.

    For ongoing characters like Mickey Mouse or Superman, the lapse into public domain doesn't cover ownership of the underlying character. Disney will always own Mickey Mouse, and DC will always own Superman.
    Doesn't the Jerry Siegel familily own the rights to Superman? Even on the Supergirl TV show even in episodes without Superman in them in the end credits it says "By Special Arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family".

  13. #13
    Incredible Member Comic-Reader Lad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Osiris-Rex View Post
    Doesn't the Jerry Siegel familily own the rights to Superman? Even on the Supergirl TV show even in episodes without Superman in them in the end credits it says "By Special Arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family".
    My understanding is that DC owns Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, Spectre, etc., but that additional credit was part of the settlement to the Siegel family. I believe the credit has to appear as part of Superman's appearances until the expiration of Action #1's copyright on Jan 1, 2034.

  14. #14
    Astonishing Member Güicho's Avatar
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    People really need to distinguish between the right to copy, that is re-produce (re-print), re-broadcast the old material.
    Vs actually making "NEW" material based on that old property and what it's become.
    There is a difference.
    As well you need to recognize trademark, as allot of these old properties have evolved, changed, expanded, had new visual and thematic elements added over time, to the way most know them today, and those newer recognizable elements would be protected by those who developed and maintained the licensee and trademark over time, while doing so. They are protected by trademarking certain visual elements you can not use.


    So by all means blindly celebrate! Yet know this doesn't automatically make them available for you to make new material. You better know what you are celebrating. Good luck putting out a product (be specific in knowing what aspect is actually public domain) They can show you infringe on their recognizable version, or on their trademark which they've maintained.
    Last edited by Güicho; 01-02-2019 at 09:55 AM.

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member AndrewCrossett's Avatar
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    A lot of people seem to think "Disney loses control of Mickey Mouse if Steamboat Willie ever goes into public domain, so they will move heaven and earth to keep extending copyright." But the character is protected by trademark. And in fact there already is a Mickey cartoon that has been in the public domain for many years. ("The Mad Doctor.")

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