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Copyright Issues – Oz, The Great & Powerful

Posted by on Aug 14, 2013 in Copyright

You can learn a great deal about copyright law by analyzing the different copyright issues in the creation of the recent Disney movie, Oz the Great and Powerful.  The new Oz movie is a derivative work based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, The Wizard of Oz.  Elements created in the book were available for Disney to use, but anything created for the 1939 movie was not. The book was written in 1900, so its copyright protection expired in 1956.  Baum had written thirteen sequels continuing the Oz story and they all entered the public domain between 1960 and 1986.  Meanwhile, Samuel Goldwyn purchased the film rights from Baum in 1933 then sold them to MGM in 1938.  MGM still retains the copyright to the movie it produced until 2034.  Disney received the film rights to the other thirteen books in 1954, but MGM did not sell their right to the first book.  In fact, MGM and Disney had a few legal battles over the movie content. In 2011, the 8th Circuit of Appeals ruled that while the characters in Baum’s novels are in the public domain, their depictions in the 1939 movie are still protected.  As a result Disney, and anyone else looking to utilize the Oz characters,...

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