Intellectual Property

Well, Blow Me Down!

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On New Year's Day, the copyright on Popeye will expire in Great Britain:

From January 1, the iconic sailor falls into the public domain in Britain under an EU law that restricts the rights of authors to 70 years after their death. Elzie Segar, the Illinois artist who created Popeye, his love interest Olive Oyl and nemesis Bluto, died in 1938….

The copyright expiry means that, from Thursday, anyone can print and sell Popeye posters, T-shirts and even create new comic strips, without the need for authorisation or to make royalty payments.

In the U.S., by contrast, Popeye will be locked up until 2024. And the Popeye trademark, as opposed to copyright, is still in effect on both sides of the Atlantic, so if you were hoping to borrow the sailor man's name for a fried chicken restaurant in Belfast you're SOL.

popeye

For those of us who don't think anyone should have a monopoly on any fictional character, the history of Popeye provides two precious pieces of ammunition. One is the wonderful set of Popeye films made by Dave and Max Fleischer in the 1930s, a grotesque and surreal series that sometimes seemed closer in spirit to Robert Crumb than to Mickey Mouse. If it weren't for the Fleischers, it would be easier to argue that no one but a character's creator should be able to use him. The Fleischer Popeye shows the benefits of allowing artists to tinker with someone else's invention.

The second piece of ammo? It's the much less impressive Popeye comics and cartoons that appeared after Segar died and the Fleischers moved on to other projects. It may be valuable to let people play with Segar's creations, but that doesn't mean a single company has any special insight into which artists are suited for the job. It's telling that the one time the latter-day Popeye started to get interesting again—when the underground comix veteran Bobby London took over the strip from 1986 to 1992—the suits who ran King Features didn't like the fact that its franchise was making jokes about abortion and other controversial issues. So London was fired.

As of Thursday, any British artist can try to make a Popeye as good as that of Segar or the Fleischer brothers. What's more, he can do this without worrying that he'll meet the same fate as Bobby London. Best of all, if he does a mediocre job, we won't have to wait until he retires before learning whether anyone else can do better.

Elsewhere in Reason: Popeye and pot. Popeye and monetary policy. The genius of E.C. Segar.

[Via Mark Brady.]

NEXT: Fatah, Madoff, and Gaza

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  1. thanks, Jesse:

    test case for ‘toons and advertising. Fred Flintstone can give advice on doing commercials (remember his cigarette ones?)

    great stuff, as usual!

  2. Smash the capitalists’ stranglehold on comic book characters! Vsya vlast’ ComicBookGuyam!

  3. wtf, jackass?

    wtf?

    how’s your rented truck in your quest to BuildTheWall?

    didja know that Popeye was actually not from Illinois, but from Costa Rica? and his subversive plot is to induce MexicanEmployment in the SpinachIndustry?

  4. But, seriously. At the same time as Reason is trying to screw content creators and their assigns, I’m trying to save us from idiocracy.

    Compare my questions to the leading questions (most all already answered on his sites or elsewhere), read why I labeled BHO’s effort a “scam”, and note that offering their own questions is something that Reason is incapable of.

  5. Coming next issue in 2000 A.D.: Judge Dredd’s new partner, Judge Popeye. “I yam da law! Ackackackackack!”

  6. *opens up can of grape nehi*
    *realizes that the Formula 409 bubbles are making too much noise**

    wonders if solitary loonjob ever got the rentedTruck righted for buildingTheWall…

  7. I’d like to do my part to screw content creators by linking to my ripoff of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. Stout died thirty years ago, for Christ’s sake.

    http://avanneman.blogspot.com/2008/07/politics-is-murder-complete.html

  8. The second piece of ammo? It’s the much less impressive Popeye comics and cartoons that appeared after Segar died and the Fleischers moved on to other projects.

    But Jesse, what about the Robert Altman musical film?

    PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP

  9. Jesse, are the London strips available anywhere that you know of?

    Epi – you have to admit he at least got Olive Oyl’s casting right, if nothing else.

  10. VM,
    Didja have a rough xmas? The guy is trying to save us from Idiocracy ferchrissakes! Lay off him. It’s a rough lonely job. The years away from anyone who cares what he says, the long, long nights fretting over Salma Hayek’s ample talents, the days of subsisting on kidney beans (cuz you know pinto beans just won’t do), the writing, dear god, the WRITING! The posting, the incessant nonsensical annoying GODDAMN POSTING! WHY DOESN’T HE JUST SHUT UP?!! WHY CAN’T HE MUTTER TO HIMSELF LIKE A GOOD CRAZY PERSON?!! WHAT THE FUCK IS HIS PROBLEM?!!

    Happy Holidays, everybody!
    Shame about them Bears, eh?

  11. Jesse, are the London strips available anywhere that you know of?

    The ones that got him fired are here. I should probably add that link to the main post.

    There’s also a collection, but it’s out of print — and it’s limited to London’s earlier efforts.

  12. Jesse – thanks.

    highnumber – if he posted on blogs where people gave a shit what he thought, he might actually have to make sense.

  13. If he made sense, people would give a shit what he thought.

  14. If he made sense…if CarX sold flowers…if icicles dripped up…if Batman slept with the Joker…if Journey rocked…if LonelyWhacker made sense…

  15. Nice piece. Thanks for the credit!

  16. For those of us who don’t think anyone should have a monopoly on any fictional character…

    “Monopoly”? Is that what reason is calling property these days?

    Shame. Shame.

  17. If he made sense, people would give a shit what he thought.

    And if your uncle had tits he’d be your aunt.

  18. “Monopoly”? Is that what reason is calling property these days?

    Shame. Shame.

    ed, “Shame” is the name of a fictional character to which I hold exclusive copyright. By reproducing my* character’s attributes, including his name, his lovable thickheadedness, his strange notion of property and his self-righteous tone, you have violated such copyright, and now owe me 7500 dollars in penalties.

    * (The character “Shame” originally created in 1874 by M. Peckinsnoid, and purchased from his heirs for .25 by my great-grand-uncle thrice removed.)

  19. “Monopoly”? Is that what reason is calling property these days?

    Ed, I know you believe in the right to copyright specific works of art. But do you really believe in the right to copyright individual characters? Isn’t that an intrusive interference with freedom of expression?

  20. Fortunately, at least, most if not all of the Fleischer cartoons lapsed into the public domain years ago. So, they were available on VHS and DVD, from small boutique distributors, long before the major studios starting releasing them.

  21. “Monopoly”? Is that what reason is calling property these days?

    Intellectual Property isn’t property. It’s a monopoly on speech, that the government grants to the establishment.

  22. Ed, I know you believe in the right to copyright specific works of art. But do you really believe in the right to copyright individual characters? Isn’t that an intrusive interference with freedom of expression?

    What? And live in a world, one never blessed with Calvin pissing on a Ford emblem?

    Not to answer for Ed, but I could live with death + 20 years for copyright, even for individual characters (excepting for the usual: parody, educational use, etc). The generation after that will have to go out and work for a living, rather than sponge off the spoils of of grandpa’s work.

  23. GREAT! Now that Reason has taken a stand against intellectual property rights, and is all for screwing content creators outright, I can now cut and paste whole articles from Reason Mag to my website! Whata GREAT day for FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION! (Of course, I may change a few words here and there, but hey, that’s ok. It’s about FREE SPEECH baby).

    And if you object to me using and/or abusing your creation, then YOU Sir, are worse than Hitler.

  24. Speaking of copyright violation and the Simpsons, check out this

  25. “Fortunately, at least, most if not all of the Fleischer cartoons lapsed into the public domain years ago.”

    If you haven’t seen the restored Warner’s release of the chronological Popeye on DVD, you haven’t really seen the Fleisher cartoons (assuming you’re not 90 years old.)

  26. Silly Penguin. Homer told me that he personally samples and checks all batches for uniformity, conformity, and quality.

    the IP debate is tricky. It’s definitely not as simple as “freedom of speech”, but David Levine has some fantastic resources about it. Recommended for all points of view (his book is “Against Intellectual Property”)

  27. Now that Reason has taken a stand against intellectual property rights, and is all for screwing content creators outright, I can now cut and paste whole articles from Reason Mag to my website!

    “Reason” has taken no such stance. (Why are the alleged defenders of individual creators unwilling to credit the individual authors of posts?) But for the record, people already do this all the time. (Future archeologists will think I did most of my writing for other people’s livejournals.) We don’t complain.

  28. I generally oppose the idea of tossing IP protection out the window; then again, I also think that the IP lobby has conned the government into turning the IP protection dial in the U.S. to ’11’. Not good and full of all sorts of bad implications.

    More specifically, I don’t agree with the idea that an author shouldn’t be able to have exclusive rights over a character that he has created. For many authors, the character may be the key to the author’s success–i.e., Sherlock Holmes or Gregory House. What’s the incentive to create such characters if someone else can rip you off? The duration of those exclusive rights is another issue, of course.

  29. What’s the incentive to create such characters if someone else can rip you off?

    If the stories you write about them are better, those rival tales shouldn’t affect your bottom line. (And with fan-beloved creations like Holmes, you have the additional ability to write authorized, “canonical” stories about them.)

  30. and don’t forget about the autobiographical Slashfic…(and our Wayne Sulu noir)

  31. “What’s the incentive to create such characters if someone else can rip you off?”

    Copyright was created to spur content when there was very little. We are now in a content glut. We don’t need that incentive anymore.

  32. My thinking is that rather than remove the protection altogether, we should reduce the duration. What was the rule pre-1976 Act–28 years with an opportunity to renew for one additional 28-year term? That seems reasonable. And the renewal allows dormant works to enter the public domain.

  33. VM,

    Fair use–we’re doing parody. Incidentally, part of my dial-turned-to-eleven comment was about the marginalization of fair use, the first sale doctrine, and other limits built into copyright protection. With IP infringement well nigh on its way to becoming a capital offense, there’s a serious tension developing between copyright protection and free speech rights (it’s always been there to some extent, granted).

  34. ProL, Jesse is right. Anybody can write a story about Dracula, for instance, and so we get a bunch of shit stories and movies and a few good ones.

    There is no need to “protect” the Dracula character. When everyone can try and develop the character, we all win.

  35. I wouldn’t remove copyright protection altogether either. But, to paraphrase a stance on a different issue, let’s declare victory and go home.

  36. Stoker wrote Dracula in the late 1800s. It is and should be in the public domain. As should the friggin’ mouse, which is one of the reasons the duration keeps getting extended.

    As for other characters, let’s remember the limited scope of the protection. For instance, using my examples above, Dr. House is a clear derivation of Sherlock Holmes; however, even if the Holmes character still received protection, I doubt anyone could make a case of infringement. There are too many divergent elements to the character and, after all, copyright doesn’t protect ideas. Characters are protected, after all, but there have been any number of knockoffs of Luke Skywalker or similarly iconic (and recent) characters.

    I think a relatively strong level of IP protection has played no small part in the creative explosion in the U.S. But I also think we’ve been setting the protection level way too high for decades.

  37. Anybody can write a story about Dracula, for instance, and so we get a bunch of shit stories and movies and a few good ones.

    Anyone can write a story about him today. When Nosferatu came out, though, Dracula wasn’t in the public domain — and the film was almost lost as a result.

  38. ProL, look at it from a creator perspective. If I create a character called “Captain Jerk”, and other people are free to write stories with my character, that, as “That Guy” said, “grows the brand”.

    People making money off your creation just increases awareness of that creation. It’s a good thing.

  39. Episiarch,

    And that’s the argument that many infringers use. I think there’s a tension between the right of the public to get an infinite variation on any given theme and the right of the author to be rewarded for his efforts. You can say that many people playing with the character heightens the public awareness of the character, but it also likely limits the market in which the creator can operate in. I’m not saying that a copyright holder shouldn’t allow things like fan fiction or other derivative works, but I think it should be his (or its) decision.

    I do think fair use exceptions like parody and criticism are important and should be more generically protected in their own rights (parodists shouldn’t have to defend themselves the way they do in court, for instance). It’s really the crushing overbreadth of copyright owner’s claims that serves to chill the creation of a lot of derivative works permitted under fair use. Or works that aren’t, in fact, derivative at all.

  40. Florence Stoker, widow of Bram Stoker (who had died in 1912), sued the producers of Nosferatu for infringement and won. As part of the 1925 decision, all copies of Nosferatu were to be destroyed. Most were.

    WTF?!? It’s one thing to sue for infringement, but why try to utterly destroy a creation? What possible purpose does that serve?

  41. If you remove copyright protection, especially on individual characters, how will we get amazing porn spoofs, such as Edward Penishands, The DaVinci Load, Nailin’ Paylin and Not Bewitched XXX? (NSFW)

  42. I’m a strong supporter of intellectual property rights (I’m a professional writer, I kind of have to be), but keeping an iron grip on a 70-year old character is rent-seeking, plain and simple.

    The creators (or the corporate entity that initially financed the creation) have had more than enough time to profit from said creations. I think 50 years of the lifetime of the creator, whichever comes first, should be the limit for any kind of copyright. Anything beyond that fails to serve the public good and unjustly limits free expression.

    I write comics for a living, and I’ve written Batman and Superman for DC Comics. The world would be a much better place if DC did not own an exclusive copyright on Batman and Superman. Batman and Superman would be far better and more interesting characters if DC did not hold a monopoly on their likeness.

    My two cents.

  43. ProL hits the mark. It’s not the copyright itself that is the problem, it’s the egregious abuse by both the corporate holders and their toadies in Congress who saee no problem with extending copyright to unworkable lengths.

    I’ll say this much, without copyright, we would never have had a cheesy rip-off of Star Wars and would not have today the truly epic and awsome Battlestar Galactica

  44. Free My Willie!

    ProL, if parody is an acceptable use, then why isn’t any other use? Parody is merely redefining a character…for comedy purposes. So why can’t I redefine for dramatic purposes? Or Furry fetish purposes?

    You can say that many people playing with the character heightens the public awareness of the character, but it also likely limits the market in which the creator can operate in.

    How? People can distinguish “The Awesome Chick-banging Adventures of Captain Jerk” by E. Pisiarch and “The Totally Gay Adventures of Captain Jerk” by P. Libertate.

  45. Parody has also been limited by the Sup. Ct. A writer made a book parodying the OJ Trial using the Dr. Seuss style. Nope. It turns out that you cant’ use Dr. Seuss unless you are parodying Dr. Seuss.

  46. I’ll say this much, without copyright, we would never have had a cheesy rip-off of Star Wars and would not have today the truly epic and awsome Battlestar Galactica

    How did copyright give us the new BSG? I would think that it probably almost prevented it from getting made.

  47. “…Or Furry fetish purposes…”

    *slowly backs away from Episiarch…*

  48. Hey, there’s a market for it. MOOSE. Something you’re not telling us?

  49. um….

    um….

    *puts Noam Chomsky blow up doll away*

    what. nothing.

  50. “How did copyright give us the new BSG? I would think that it probably almost prevented it from getting made.”

    I think the argument is that without copyright the original BSG would have been simply Star Wars “The Search For Earth” and hence we wouldn’t have the reimagination of the knockoff. Of course, Ron Moore would still be a producer and who knows what he would have come up with. Maybe his reimagination of Star Wars would have been the greatest thing ever.

  51. puts Noam Chomsky blow up doll away

    Charlie: Oh, so Frank. You knew too?

    Frank: Uh. Uh-hu…

    Charlie: Did I see you bang that doll?

  52. What’s the incentive to create such characters if someone else can rip you off?

    Good point. We should all remember how no one ever created any fictional characters until copyright was created, about 1662. (Shakespeare’s works, for example, were all written by the Earl of Oxford in 1732, who back-dated them to make them (and him) look old.)

  53. *ignores Epi. turns to the sweaty pillow fight scene on page 69 of the leather-bound edition of “Heather Has Two Mommies”*

  54. Lamar hits an important point–the limitations of copyright can inspire many authors to create something new, rather than to keep rehashing existing, proven characters. Hollywood aside, of course.

    Episiarch,

    I’m rather sure you have those adventures switched around. Oddly enough, I wrote a short Star Trek parody in law school (to do something other than think, discuss, or write about the freakin’ law), which highlighted Spock’s insatiable lust for the female crew of the Enterprise.

    Parody is different for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, parody is, by its very nature, derivative. If there isn’t a parody exception, then the only parody would be authorized parody. While one could argue that even that should be controlled by the author, I don’t think that makes much sense. I doubt Lucas, for example, would be the ideal person to parody Star Wars, though he tried really hard to do so in the prequels.

    Second, parody often serves the purpose of providing commentary on the underlying work. That takes it into the whole world of whether we want to even be able to talk about copyrighted works, which, of course, we do. Thus we give uses involving criticism, news reporting, education, parody, etc. special status.

    Seamus,

    And people still wrote books in the Soviet Union. I don’t think the utility of the incentive of copyright protection is really debatable. Again, it’s not whether to have protection at all; it’s how much protection we should have.

  55. There’s already a glut of cheesy ripoffs that occur when something popular comes out. Successful movies, video games, and books lead others to form their product in pretty much the same way, except with some small twist. A Grand Theft Auto clone? No! You are a corrupt cop etc.

    Also don’t forget about one of the banes of the internet: fanfiction. There was enough Harry Potter fanfiction on the internet to fill the Library of Congress three times over, but J.K. Rowley still has enough money to take a crap on the lawn of Buckingham Palace without suffering any penalties beyond seeing the queen do that stupid wave of hers.

  56. How did copyright give us the new BSG? I would think that it probably almost prevented it from getting made.

    Because, without it, the producers could have just redone Star Wars without the needed tweaks to make it a unique and distinct work. So, instead of Hans Solo v.2, we get Lt. Starbuck, (not all that orginal, but they needed a scoundrel I suppose). We also got monkeys in robot dog suits, instead of midgets in robot suits, but I digress.

    Instead, they had to come up with a Mormon version that eventually led to a version 30 years later so far superior to the original as to make the original meaningless and our lives so much more enriched than without.

  57. Of course, Ron Moore would still be a producer and who knows what he would have come up with.

    Who cut his teeth on the various copyrighted franchises of Star Trek. Coincedence? I-don’t-think-so…..

  58. There should be, of course, a mashup exception to the Copyright Act. Like, I dunno, a Sanford and Son/Dune mashup.

  59. “Who cut his teeth on the various copyrighted franchises of Star Trek.”

    So without copyright, he would have cut his teeth on non-copyrighted versions of Star Trek? Maybe we would have been spared the Bionic Woman.

  60. So without copyright, he would have cut his teeth on non-copyrighted versions of Star Trek?

    No, there probably wouldn’t have been a Star Trek franchise without copyright. And thus, no BSG v.2. And thus, no need for copyright.

    Maybe we would have been spared the Bionic Woman.

    No, that was his BSG partner, David Eick. Connected, I grant you, but the Bionic Snoozer still doesn’t dminish the sheer, overwhelming smacktitude of BSG. It was a series clearly wearing a red shirt from episode 1.

  61. Everybody noticed this, right?

    The Popeye trademark, a separate entity to Segar’s authorial copyright, is owned by King Features, a subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation – the US entertainment giant – which is expected to protect its brand aggressively. – TFA

    Creating new Thimble Theatre strips or Popeye cartoons will be one thing. Marketing them under those marks will be quite another.

    Kevin

  62. I’d market “Popeye” as “Steamboat Willie”.

  63. Maybe we would have been spared the Bionic Woman.

    Fucking. Awful. I couldn’t believe how awful. TV has gone a long way since the 80’s, and that show felt like a piece of crap from back then. How hard can it be to write an interesting story about a cyborg chick? Sarah Connor Chronicles is managing just fine.

  64. I’d market “Popeye” as “Steamboat Willie”.

    That’s pretty good. I would have gone with “Super Spinachy Sailor Taint Man”. That’s the sort of thing that makes me glad I didn’t go into marketing.

  65. “No, there probably wouldn’t have been a Star Trek franchise without copyright. And thus, no BSG v.2. And thus, no need for copyright.”

    And…and….there wouldn’t be any shows at all….and there wouldn’t even be TV….and nobody would have eyes….and we’d all have squid faces and no pants….

  66. And…and….there wouldn’t be any shows at all….and there wouldn’t even be TV….and nobody would have eyes….and we’d all have squid faces and no pants….

    No, no you’re not following me. BSG is all the justification for copyright that you need. It’s just That. Fucking. Awsome. It’s so awsome, that its awsomeness flows backwards through time and justifies all previous copyrights.

  67. BSG is awesome, but if copyright were different or non-existent, there would be something else just as awesome, because copyright doesn’t reduce Ron Moore’s ego.

  68. I think JW has a man-crush on Ron Moore. Time for a bromance.

    because copyright doesn’t reduce Ron Moore’s ego

    You know he patterned Baltar after himself?

  69. Actually, BSG isn’t a great example. It’s really so different from the original that Moore could’ve just changed the names for people, places, and things and the setting a bit and then marketed it as, say, Whole Lotta Robot Hotties.

  70. OK, so why didn’t they just screw all the women in the fleet and check to see if their backs lit up?

  71. Lamar,

    What we learned from BSG is that our colonial brothers and sisters are unfamiliar with certain sexual positions.

  72. OK, so why didn’t they just screw all the women in the fleet and check to see if their backs lit up?

    They covered the lights with tramp stamps. No dice.

  73. If BSG were a gigantic ratings hit, I bet women would be seeking out tattoos along their spines with special ink that lights up when their heart rate increases . Nothing like a TV show to spark a useless fad.

  74. You’d think Baltar, of all people, would have figured out that kind of Cylon detector. I mean, seriously, he could have screwed every woman and girl in the fleet.

  75. “Could have?”

  76. I mean, seriously, he could have screwed every woman and girl in the fleet.

    He’s getting there pretty well anyway. Having your own cult and harem is quite the achievement.

  77. “Super Spinachy Sailor Taint Man”

    wow.

    Lamar – see, had BSG been made in Canada, they could see if the backs would light up. Unless there was a power play or something…

  78. VM, I’m pretty sure it is filmed in Canada (Vancouver). A huge percentage of the actors are Canadian too.

  79. you got me then. in the Canadian position, they would be able to see if the back lights up.

    then, on the lighter side.

    Which is better, old BSG or new?

    Let’s start looking at the evidence:
    Boomer vs
    Boomer.

    clearly we all know the answer to this.

  80. “Boomer vs Boomer”

    Is this the new “Is Your Man Gay” test?

  81. which do you prefer?

    not that there’s anything wrong with either selection, of course.
    just equal pictures… no attempt to sway whatsoever.

  82. Lamar,

    At least they weren’t shot in the same pose.

  83. ProGLib – if you prefer

  84. Ugh. Why, no, I don’t prefer. In fact, I don’t even acknowledge.

  85. what about 2:48?

  86. What’s that from? Grace, the Early Years?

  87. dunno. just thought everybody should what the Pilot/Cylon has been up to!

  88. Next thing, VM will have pictures of Number Eight on Number Eight action.

  89. Watch what you ask for, Episiarch. VM is likely to come back with disturbing photos of some guy who played Number 8 on The Prisoner or something. I often cringe before clicking on his links or eschew doing so altogether. Here, at least, Grace Park has dominated.

  90. I like disturbing, ProL.

  91. Very well, then. VM! I summon you to disturb Episiarch! Do your worst!

    Just be sure to label your links appropriately to protect the children and those with sensitive stomachs.

  92. I think JW has a man-crush on Ron Moore. Time for a bromance.

    Nuh-uh! I’m just basking in the light that his ego puts forth. He’s earned it.

  93. I like Firefly better than BSG, though both are full of awesome. But I’ve not been ensnared by Buffy. What does this mean?

  94. What does this mean?

    That you’re gay. Liberace gay.

  95. That you’re gay. Liberace gay.

    Whoa, hold on there, chief. How can liking Firefly be gay? You’re gay.

  96. Episiarch is absolutely right. Have you seen the women on Firefly? Go watch it, then go to your bunk.

  97. Ed, I know you believe in the right to copyright specific works of art. But do you really believe in the right to copyright individual characters? Isn’t that an intrusive interference with freedom of expression?

    Well, that wouldn’t be copyright in most cases (except in digital distribution of things like video game models). That would be trademarking of the character names and likenesses.

    You have copyright to a cartoon you make, but you can register trademarks for the names and designs of the characters in it. This, of course, means that people who publish their own “Popeye” comic strips can still get sued in old Blighty, regardless of what the original writer thinks.

  98. Easy lads, here’s the relevent quote:

    But I’ve not been ensnared by Buffy.

    Not like Buffy = The ghay

    I have Buffy, Firefly and BSG, all on DVD. I never have to leave my bunk. Once I get House on DVD, life shall be complete.

  99. JW,

    I got the first three seasons of House, M.D. on DVD for Christmas. I had never watched the show, though I’m an old fan of Hugh Laurie (esp. from Blackadder), until I finally sat and watched an episode on USA during a marathon they were running the week of Thanksgiving. I’m amazed still that I’m actually hooked on a popular network show. It’s been at least ten years (probably more like twenty) since that’s been true.

    As for Buffy, I haven’t really watched much of it, though I don’t have a strong opinion about it either way. As a Firefly fan, I do assume that I wouldn’t hate it.

  100. ProL–It’s Joss Whedon, but it’s not Firefly. In some respects, Firelfy is better, but that may be becasue it only had 15 episodes and didn’t have time to go stale. It also was after Buffy and he had lessons learned.

    Buffy is fun, for the most part. I know people whol hate on the last season, but I liked it better than the earlier seasons.

    If you like Whedon’s humor, then you’ll proabably like Buffy, but it will take time to watch. FWIW, I never watched it when it was on, but got into it when FX was showing it in the early AM, which I watched while I got ready for work.

    I’m amazed still that I’m actually hooked on a popular network show. It’s been at least ten years (probably more like twenty) since that’s been true.

    Yeah, that’s true for me as well. I missed the first season and most of the 2nd because, well, it’s a network show! House truly is an exception to the “99% is shit” rule. Heroes being the other, but it’s starting to go downhill. They just fired 2 of the head writers, so time will tell if that saves the show or not.

  101. I suppose I’ll eventually try to watch Buffy. Not enough hours in the day to catch up with everything I’ve missed, of course.

    I wish that Whedon could revive a Firefly series. Serenity was good, but the long story arcs work better for him, I think.

  102. Well, that wouldn’t be copyright in most cases (except in digital distribution of things like video game models). That would be trademarking of the character names and likenesses.

    No, the trademark on Popeye is still in place. Trademarks do not exist to reward creators, and they do not have a built-in expiration date.

  103. That’s part the point of that comment of mine, Jesse.

  104. ProGLib – I’ll do my worst another day. This topic is really interesting, and besides the little bit of fun above, the serious comments are great. Jesse does excellent work, so I’d rather not go disturbing on his watch!

  105. Eric: I’m not an expert on British IP law, but here in the States it’s possible for characters to be protected by both trademarks and copyrights. The copyrights govern their use in derivative works. The trademarks exist to prevent customer confusion. So I think a Brit, as of tomorrow, should be able to produce his own Popeye comic as long as it’s clearly identified as not being an officially licensed King Features production.

    That said: (a) again, I’m not an expert on British IP law, or American IP law for that matter, and (b) it’s not like I did any independent reporting when I wrote this; it’s a blog post based on a Times story, not a full-fledged article of my own. So if you’ve got sources that say otherwise, please let me know.

  106. it’s a blog post based on a Times story

    Correction: it’s a blog post based on a Times story — and on far too much time reading and watching Popeye comics and cartoons.

  107. Here in the States it’s possible for characters to be protected by both trademarks and copyrights. The copyrights govern their use in derivative works. The trademarks exist to prevent customer confusion.

    Copyright covers the use of material in derivative works – ie, the actual Popeye strips. Once the copyright expires, people will be able to freely publish those strips, make collages out of them, whatever.

    Copyright does nothing right this moment in the US to punish anyone who draws a cartoon with the character of Popeye – assuming that person actually drew Popeye his or herself, instead of reproducing the likeness as seen in an actual Popeye strip. It’s just like someone writing Xena fanfic with entirely invented action and dialogue – trademark is the angle lawyers would use to breathe down your neck, if the owners so chose.

    And I don’t mean to be tetchy; it’s just that every time I see criticism of copyright or long periods of copyright, the discussions always seem to involve confusion with trademarks or misrepresentations of how copyright works.

  108. And by the way….Happy New Year? everyone!

    ? 2008 JW. All rights reserved.

  109. Yes its not the institution of copyright per se thats the problem, but that America is now operating under a perpetual copyright regime.

  110. Eric: Copyright has also been used to protect the use of characters themselves, along with other “plot elements.”

  111. Jesse, can you cite successful, standing cases of that happening?

  112. Jesse, can you cite successful, standing cases of that happening?

    Look at the discussion of copyrighted characters in Walt Disney v. Air Pirates. (Interestingly, Disney also had a trademark claim in that case, but it involved the use of the phrase “Silly Symphonies.”) You should also check out MGM Inc. v. American Honda Motor Co., which dealt with who had the rights to the character James Bond. (Sorry, I don’t have a link for that one.)

  113. “For those of us who don’t think anyone should have a monopoly on any fictional character, the history of Popeye provides two precious pieces of ammunition.”

    So in other words, the creator of a fictional character should not have a monopoly over his intellectual property? Explain to me again how this blatant theft is justifiable.

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