Warner Bros tightens their copyrights on Wizard of Oz

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Bizarro Lois

Sr Member
I thought this was interesting, since the actual books are considered to be in the public domain. And there are A LOT of differences between the Baum books and the movies. So does this mean film makers and artists can still use characters from the books, as long as they don't resemble the movie versions too closely? That's my understanding of the Disney situation - the majority of their classic characters are taken from fairy tales. So can you still create works featuring the book versions? For examplt, that Lion is basically a big lion, and not a guy walking on two feet?
Or has Warner Bros managed to prevent ANYTHING based on the Baum books from being made?
WB's Trademark Battle Over Oz | The Mary Sue
Warner Bros. Wins Scary 'Wizard of Oz' Copyright Ruling | CraveOnline
 

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SciFiMuseum

Well-Known Member
Really good read thanks for the link. I think that WB should be able to trade mark ONLY original ideas to the film. That is all. It is like Disney copyrighting all the original fairy tales that were made into animated films. Not their property until they animate it and anything that looks like their versions can be claimed in court.
 

Solo4114

Master Member
Based SOLELY on the CraveOnline article, it looks like it means that you can't have characters who appear like this:




In general, this doesn't surprise me all that much. I think it'd get more dicey if, for example, you argued that your characters were drawing on the public-domain illustrations appearing in the original Baum book.



If you compare the two, it's kind of hard to see where, visually at least, there's any difference between the original W.W. Denslow illustrations and the Warner Bros. film version of at least the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow.


Frankly, I think the overarching ruling (if I understand it right) -- that a characterization from a later derivative work CAN still be protected even if the original work from which it derives is itself in the public domain -- is fine, or at least isn't surprising. The work that's being protected is the subsequent work, not the original public-domain work.

Where it gets tricky, though, is how far you take that ruling. At what point is my Tin Woodman close enough to the ILLUSTRATION but far enough from the FILM depiction? Can one even realistically argue that there ARE differences?


All that said, this has, for years, been a way that companies effectively get a "backdoor perpetual copyright." So, Steamboat Willie may be in the public domain, but good luck slapping even THAT version of Mickey on anything as a derivative work. Even if you set aside the staggering trademark issues (which is a whole other can of worms), you still run into problems with how far you can take a derivative work of THAT cartoon before it runs into another non-public domain work.


Honestly, I'd expect that, if push came to shove and someone wanted to litigate it, designs that were reminiscent of the Denslow illustrations would be permitted, even if they were similar to the WB version. Otherwise you basically destroy the concept of "the public domain" enshrined in the statute.
 

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