Copyright expirations in comics.
This was prompted by a Slashdot post, but consider:
It’s nearly the end of 2009.
If the original 1790 copyright
maximum term of 28 years was still in effect, everything that had been
published by 1981 would be now be in the public domain — which means most of the Marvel Universe up to Dazzler and the She-Hulk, The Omega Men, The Far Side, Bloom County, Captain Victory and The Greatest American Hero would be available for remixing and mashing up.
If the 1909 copyright
maximum term of 56 years (if renewed) were still in force, everything
published by 1953 would now be in the public domain, freeing the Phantom Stranger, Captain Comet, Peanuts, Frontline Combat, Forbidden Worlds and Tales From The Crypt. (Marvelman would kick free in 2010, as would Mad magazine.)
If the 1976 copyright act
term of 75 years still applied, everything
published by 1934 would now be in the public domain, including Doc Savage, Mandrake the Magician, Dick Tracy and Terry and the Pirates.
But thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, nothing in the US will go free until 2018, when 1923 works expire. (Assuming Congress doesn’t step in with a Copyright Extension Act of 2017. What are the odds?)
Now, this doesn’t mean that rights don’t revert to somebody– as we’ve discovered, rights to Superman and the like can revert to the original creators. But it’s fascinating to consider a world where anyone could write a story about Batman as easily as one can write a story about Dracula.