Thursday, September 26, 2013

Studio tries to trademark ‘Dorothy,’ other public-domain Oz characters

My 7-year-old daughter got a Wizard of Oz toy with her McDonald’s Happy Meal the other day and I was shocked to see that Dorothy and other Oz characters were listed as trademarked.
The toys are to promote the Oct. 1 release of the musical “The Wizard of Oz” on DVD. And while that film is copyrighted, the characters from the original 1900 story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum are in the public domain. As such, artists, theater companies and others are free to produce versions of the original work.
Baum’s classic story included all the main characters used in the 1939 MGM movie starring Judy Garland. That movie is now owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Entertainment Co., both units of media conglomerate Time Warner.
The lawyers at Time Warner will make the case that how the characters look in their version of the story is copyrighted, such as Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers. (In the original book they were silver shoes.) But there’s no way they can trademark the names Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.
Those characters belong to everyone now because they are a part of the public domain.
It’s distressing to see the big TM trademark symbol next to their character names on the toys themselves and on McDonald’s Happy Meal website.

Art: Screenshots from the McDonald’s Happy Meal website showing the trademarked toys. Click photos for larger view.

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