Starting this week, some of the world’s most famous literary works will lose copyright protection — meaning they can be adapted into tongue-in-cheek spinoffs like ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.’
The ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act’ has locked in publisher control over old books — and the profits they generate — for 20 years. But now, the remake floodgates are finally opening.
Ahh mmyes, of course, the Mickey Mouse Protection Act…
The first American copyright law (passed in 1790) protected creative works for terms of 14 years to let authors profit from their work.
But publishers wanted more: Copyright law was amended 5 times to expand the terms of protection.
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After the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (AKA The Mickey Mouse Protection Act) extended protections by 20 years, nothing new entered the public domain for the past 2 decades.
Prepare yourself for Steamboat Willie + Aliens
The original copyright law was designed to help creators put food on the table, but subsequent updates mostly benefited publishers and estates.
When F. Scott Fitzgerald died, just 25k copies of The Great Gatsby had been sold. But today, 79 years after Fitzgerald’s death, his publisher Scribner still has exclusive rights to the 500k copies of Gatsby sold annually.
In 2019, books from Robert Frost, Agatha Christie, and Joseph Conrad are fair game, and now new titles will enter the public domain each new year. Gatsby’s copyright expires in 2021 — and you better believe someone is planning a zombie spinoff.