Updated: Jul 18, 2022
Copyrights can be a very difficult world to maneuver. So let's use "Winnie the Pooh" as an example. A loving, memorable character that has been the staple for many children and adults for pass generations and generations to come. Created and owned by Disney, Winnie the Pooh, has shaped our imaginations, lour love for honey and has now entered the public domain.
What does that mean...
That means the character can be used in your own stores. Does that means if you want to create an animation and put Winnie the Pooh in it as a character could you not be sued? Well I am not a lawyer but here is are a few examples of how the legendary bear is being used to tell stories...
Public Domain Problems
Before a copyrighted work enters the public domain, an author of an “original work of authorship” has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, create derivative works, perform publicly, or display that work. If others want to use the work, they have to ask the author for permission. Copyright protection in the United States lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after the author’s death. Since copyright protection extends beyond the life of the author, the author’s estate obtains the exclusive rights when the author dies and can subsequently enforce these rights against those who use the work without permission.
What Actually Happened
Under U.S. copyright law, works of corporate or pseudonymous authorship lapse into the public domain after either 95 years from first publication or 120 years after creation, whichever ends first.
What this means is that the Milne’s original Winnie-the-Pooh book is now free of copyright. This means that others are free to copy, publish, distribute, create new works based upon it and otherwise make use of it without a license. That is, potentially, a big deal in many ways.
It means that, for example, if a company other than Disney wanted to make their own animated adaptation of the work, they could. Anyone could also publish their own version of the book, either with the original art or new art that they created.
However, the freedom only extends to that particular book and that which is contained in it.
Milne actually wrote four books based on the character and books 2-4 have not lapsed into the public domain. This means that many of the characters from the series, most notably Tigger, have not lapsed and will not for a few more years. In fact, the image of Pooh wearing a red shirt was not published until 1932, meaning, much like Frankenstein’s monster, those seeking to exploit the public domain work may want to be careful about how they portray him.
Perhaps more importantly, this lapse does not impact any of Disney’s works. Disney did not release its first animated work based on the character until 1966, meaning that there are still four decades of copyright protection left on those.
When a character enters the public domain it is free for use...although we encourage you to use the spirit of the character in good taste and in line with the vision of the author. We still believe it is important to get clearance from the author if the creation is being monetized...
Starting to see why NFT's could be valuable if done right?