Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hollywood’s one-sided love of public domain works continues

Hollywood loves to adapt stories from the public domain because they often are known quantities and are off copyright and free to use. (Current examples: “The Three Musketeers” and “Puss in Boots.”)
But Hollywood zealously fights to keep its original stories from going into the public domain. So while it benefits from the public domain, Hollywood doesn’t contribute to it. Corporate copyright holders have successfully lobbied Congress to extend copyright terms way beyond the original intent, bastardizing the purpose of copyrights.
Under copyright law, a government gives the owner or creator of a work of art a monopoly on its use for a “limited” period of time. Governments spend considerable resources (i.e. tax dollars) to enforce those copyrights. What the public gets in return is the expectation that those works eventually will be placed in the public domain where educators, artists and other people will be free to use and adapt them for the benefit of society and humanity.
But corporate copyright holders have convinced government officials to stretch the terms of copyrights practically forever. That’s wrong. The public domain of ideas needs to be regularly refreshed.
On Friday, the latest adaptation of “The Three Musketeers” opened in theaters. The movie, starring Logan Lerman and Milla Jovovich, was filmed in 3-D. It’s based on the 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas. The source material has been made into two dozen movies over the last 100-plus years, according to Wikipedia.
Up next is “Puss in Boots” from DreamWorks Animation, which will hit theaters Nov. 4. The computer-animated movie features the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. This version of Puss in Boots is a spinoff from the “Shrek” series of movies, which are based in large part on fairy tales in the public domain.
“Puss in Boots” is based on a 1697 French fairy tale by Charles Perrault, according to Wikipedia.
Many more new works based on or inspired by public domain works are on the way. More on that later.

Photos: Movie posters of "The Three Musketeers" and "Puss in Boots."

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