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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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March 22, 2005

Penning new Pan

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Last year I wrote about the UK's Great Ormond Street Hospital possibly suing Disney. Ormond Street are the holders of the Peter Pan copyright and were miffed that they got nothing for the Peter Pan "prequel" book Peter and the Starcatchers.

Now, British author Geraldine McCaughrean has been selected to write the authorized sequel. The apparent motivation for this is to keep money flowing in as the original Europe copyright expires in in 2007 (US copyright runs until 2023).

McCaughrean is no novice though she's not well-known in the US - she has over 130 publication credits (primarily children's books and plays) and is the only writer to be given the Whitbread Children's Book Award three times.

I'm somewhat conflicted about this. On the one hand I'd be glad to see a copyright owner using that right to keep beloved material alive and vital. On the other hand, a one-shot contest seemingly sparked only by an imminent expiration of a long-held mark hardly seems to be the kind of creative flourishing that I'd like copyright to promote. Peter Pan is one of those few works that has remained in the public eye over a long period, and the monies collected do seem to go to a good cause. But somehow it feels to me like there's a great deal of potential here that isn't being made available to a wider range of creative talent.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use


COMMENTS

1. Timothy Phillips on March 22, 2005 10:54 AM writes...

Just what copyright is this that "expires in 2023" in the U.S. ?

Barrie's Peter and Wendy had a copyright date of 1911. The U.S. copyright expired on January 1st, 1987.

Barrie's A Little White Bird which first introduced a character named "Peter Pan" had a copyright date of 1902. This U.S. copyright expired sometime in 1958.

Presumably the U.S. copyright that expires in 2023 is the copyright in the latest published version of the play. (The play itself premiered in London on December 27th, 1904, but it was not immediately published.) In cases like this, where a name applies to more than one work, we copyfighters should be careful to specify which one we mean.

Permalink to Comment

2. Donna Wentworth on March 22, 2005 11:27 AM writes...

Quite right!

Here's a bit more discussion on that point: http://www.corante.com/copyfight/archives/2004/10/15/disney_caught_pirating_from_public_domain_and_children.php

Permalink to Comment

3. Dr. wex on March 22, 2005 12:38 PM writes...

True, but somewhat beside the issue I want to point at, which is something along the lines of: How do we relate works like Peter Pan or Bambi, which have unusually long popular lives to questions such as how should we handle orphan works? This is, I think, an issue of some concern at the moment and I'm not even clear in my own head on how I'd like to see it handled. Then there's the whole "revival" notion...

Permalink to Comment

4. Donna Wentworth on March 22, 2005 3:05 PM writes...

Far be it for me to pull that conversation askew!

Permalink to Comment

5. Branko Collin on March 23, 2005 4:46 PM writes...

"Ormond Street are the holders of the Peter Pan copyright"

I think Ormond Street do not need your help in misrepresenting the copyright status of Peter Pan, thank you very much.

BTW, should it be illegal to misrepresent copyright status? One of the things that threatens orphan works is having people falsely claim ownership over works. There is nothing forcing a publisher to prove such a claim, and with statutory damages and assorted legal costs being what they are in the US, it takes courage to try and find out the hard way whether such claims are true or not.

The way I see it, somebody who copies an MP3 for personal use is at the worst merely an infringer. But somebody who withholds works from the public steals that work: those thieves should be punished much harsher, but instead are being ignored.

Permalink to Comment

6. Neo on March 24, 2005 1:26 PM writes...

Bravo. The real "theft" of "intellectual property" occurs when it is not returned to the public domain after a reasonably short term.

Permalink to Comment


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