As much as Hollywood movie studios and other content companies try to lock up artistic works through copyright laws, they benefit a great deal from works in the public domain.
Just look at all of the movies, musical theater, books and video games in production that are based on works freely available to adapt from the public domain. These are older works that were once protected by copyrights, but those protections have expired.
I’m a proponent of rolling back the length of time works can be locked up by copyrights. The terms are too long under current U.S. copyright law. The general public, artists and even media companies would benefit greatly from more works (books, movies, music, etc.) entering the public domain.
Copyrights used to be on equal footing with patented inventions. But while the length of time patents are covered has stayed the same, copyrights keep getting extended, thanks to forceful lobbying by media firms.
Unfortunately the works in the public domain are those published before 1923. Everything after that is locked down by copyright extensions. Some in Congress would like to see copyrights extended forever, but that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.
What follows are some examples of derivative works based on literature in the public domain. They show the creativity that is unlocked by the freedom to reexamine older works in a new light.
Part 1: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900) by L. Frank Baum has been turned into movies, theatrical productions and other works since entering the public domain. The hit Broadway musical “Wicked” (2003) is one of the best examples.
The original story inspired the classic MGM musical “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), as well as countless other movies, cartoons and books. They include the dark fantasy film “Return to Oz” (1985) and the SciFi Channel’s “Tin Man” (2007).
More big-budget “Wizard of Oz” adaptations are on the way.
Andrew Lloyd Webber is producing a musical theater production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The show will include the much-loved songs from the 1939 musical, plus new songs by Webber and Tim Rice.
While the original story of “The Wizard of Oz” is in the public domain, the songs and script from the Oscar-winning classic are not. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and other tunes will have to be licensed.
Performances start Feb. 7 in London.
Also on the horizon is a four-hour mini-series called “The Witches of Oz,” based on Baum’s book series.
The fantasy-comedy follows Dorothy Gale, now a successful children’s book author, as she moves from Kansas to New York City. Dorothy soon realizes that the dreams on which she based her books were actually childhood memories.
The mini-series features Christopher Lloyd as the Wizard of Oz and co-stars Mia Sara, Lance Henriksen, Jason Mewes and Sean Astin.
Meanwhile, Sam Raimi, director of “Spider-Man” and “Drag Me to Hell,” is on board to direct “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” according to Geektyrant. Robert Downey Jr. is in talks to play the Wizard in this prequel to the events of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Drew Barrymore is poised to direct a sequel to “The Wizard of Oz” called “Surrender Dorothy,” says Pajiba.
And porn film director Jeff Mullen, a.k.a. Will Ryder, is planning an X-rated parody of “The Wizard of Oz,” called “Not the Wizard of Oz XXX.”