Tag Archives: Brothers Grimm

Copyright: The end of stories retold

“Out with the old, in with… oh, wait, the old is still here?

In the process of adapting the Norwegian folktale Tatterhood into a comic to be enjoyed by today’s audience, something occurred to me: modern copyright practices have really screwed our narrative culture.

No, I don’t mean “WE SHOULD ALL BE ABLE TO SELL ANYONE’S WORK AND MAKE MAD MONEYS OFF IT”, but… ok, here’s the set up.

Back in the day, people shared tales. The Brother’s Grimm where just some scholarly fellows who traveled around Germany (or where ever), collecting and retelling a lot of these cautionary and cultural stories. As they actually put their findings down in writing, their version of stories had often become the definitive versions we know today… at least until Disney did the same thing and became the new standard.

The point is, a story that one individual made up was shared, re-interpreted by ANYONE through either cultural sensibilities or ‘broken telephone’, and was presented through the mediums of the time.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one such tale that I feel has been re-interpreted, retold, and even referenced more than most. Written by Lewis Caroll back in 1865, the book has been out of copyright protection since 1907, meaning, it’s public domain. According to wiki: public domain refers to works, ideas, and information which are intangible toprivate ownership and/or which are available for use by members of the public.

(or) “free reign. Everyone get to re-making that shizz.”

And though there was a silent film and many book re-prints and translations prior to 1907, afterword and as technology evolved, every medium had Alice adventuring throughout.

Children’s picture books, tv series & specials, animated films, stop motion, live action feature films, stage plays, comics and so on. And no one owed anyone to do so. You wanna make Alice in Wonder Cereal? Go nuts. Hell, PUT nuts in it.

And don’t even get started on Japan, with the manga and anime. There’s something about a girl being ‘spirited away’ into another fantastical world that they love in their story telling. Interest in the tale of Alice also has an influence on the Victorian / Rococo period inspired Lolita fashion scene.

Now here’s the interesting part.

This will never happen to Harry Potter.

This will never happen to Buzz Lightyear.

This will never happen to… Idonno, the animals from Madagascar.

Where creative content in the past had a certain amount of years after being created or a certain time after the creator’s death before becoming public domain, today we’re living among companies that still exist and own properties that have long outlived their original creators, and are constantly pushing for revisions to copyright law so that it ensures properties never become public domain.

I could write more about his, but really, there’s two videos you can watch that cover it a lot better. Be sure to check out CGPGrey’s Copyright: Forever Less One Day, and Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix Part 4, for a better explanation to the end of public domain, and WHY it’s such a great loss to us all.

– S

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

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