Monday, November 8, 2010

Public Domain Digital Slider

Thanks to the guys at Golden Age Comics UK, I recently discovered this neat Public Domain Digital Slider. How it works is you slide the arrow on the right to the year(s) in question, and it gives you a summation of copyright law for that time period (in another panel not captured in this screenshot)

Used in combo with this site, The Rutgers Copyright Renewal Reference, and this site: you begin to see that there may be more comics in public domain than you think. [ Thanks to Trey Causey for the suggestion of adding ]

A lot of comics don't show up on the Rutgers search site, and I think that might be cases where the characters are trademarked - but what about cases where the companies were unable to trademark the characters, as with comics based on celebrities? What is the public domain status of those comics? If I had to guess, I would say that while the comics might be in public domain, you would be unable to republish them without the expressed consent of the celebrities in question.

So, as an open question to readers today - does anyone know the public domain status of the old Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comics from the Silver Age? I know that in both cases movies and radio shows featuring these comics have fallen into public domain, so I'm inclined to say that the comics have as well.

So inclined, that today I offer up a couple of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin comics for today's Free Comics Monday!

[ Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis 35 ]

[ Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis 36 ]

- Enjoy!


Trey said...

Nice succinct representation. I don't completely trust the Rutgers search though, as I've searched the U.S. copyright office before and turned up results that a test of Rutgers didn't undercover.

I'd suggest people go to the actually copyright site to do searches.

Jim Shelley said...

Great Suggestion Trey! I should have added to the post - I've edited the post to include the link!

bchat said...

Here's another good resource for checking Copyright Renewals: That site covers items published between 1922 & 1950 (renewals are from 1950 through 1977-78) and compliments quite well.

Not that I ever cared to look into it, but I'ld imagine "likeness rights" (Bob Hope, Dean Martin, etc) is essentially treated along the same lines as a Trademark is, as someone is using a name/face/image to sell products (be it movies, comics, a line of clothes or whatever other crap people slap their face/name onto). So, if there are any Bob Hope comics out there that have expired or invalid Copyrights, then they are Public Domain and there isn't much anyone can do about that. Trademarks cannot be used to take anything out of the Public Domain. If a Copyright wasn't renewed or even filed in the first place, owning a Trademark on a name can't do anything about that. Like I said, I would imagine that "likeness rights" have the same effect on Copyrights as Trademarks do, which basically means that they have no effect on Copyrights at all.

Britt Reid said...

"Likeness rights" falls under the category of "rights of publicity".
Interestingly, there's no Federal statutes covering those!
Those are covered by state laws!
This feature article from MSNBC should help explain...

Jim Shelley said...

bchat and BrittReid - thank you for the information! I was a little hesitant about posting the Jerry Lewis comics but now I think a lot of old celebrity comics would be fair game.

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