The Comic Fables is Now in the Public Domain

Bill Willingham, creator of Fables (one of my favorite Comic Book series) announced on his blog that he, as the sole owner of the IP, was releasing it to the public domain apparently in response to a very rocky relationship with DC Comics (the publisher of the series). He goes into some detail here:

The gist is he while he felt DC Comics never fully treated him fairly, the people he dealt with for years moved on and the people there now are even worse. He was tired of it so he did the most drastic thing he could do which was release his ownership to the public. Suing DC was not an option as it would be too long and expensive a process.

I wonder if this holds up and what happens next.

Dang it, I had drafted my own topic starter and you beat me by one minute.

I had a different link to offer, which includes some commentary around Willingham’s original post.

This is a really, really interesting move. I can’t imagine DC will be happy about this, at all.

I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t hold up. As I understand it, any existing material will remain under copyright, so this public domain release does not mean random people can freely make their own TV series adapting the published comics, but new material using the world and characters is fair game.

Creators getting jacked around by corporations choosing to completely blow up the value of the thing the corporation is trying to steal from them? Yeah, I can definitely get behind that as a tactic in, as Willingham calls it, “asymmetric warfare.”

Similar to Taylor Swift re-recording her catalogue, to dramatically weaken the value of the original masters which she didn’t control.

And just for context, Swift tried to purchase those original masters first and only when told no did she re-record those songs. Look what they made her do!

I remember Willingham caught some flack some time ago when he responded to a letterhack and said “I’m not your personal art-n*gger.” I couldn’t find a decent online transcription, but here is a scan of the published page.


I’m sure the legal experts will weigh in at some point but it’s not entirely clear he can simply put it in the public domain. I’m sure there will be discussion on the legal end of things.

Willingham himself leans on the rightwing reactionary side of things (post above is a mild example) and injected that pretty openly into the comics (screeds on Israel - Fabletown itself is a rather obvious allegory for Israel, blatant misogyny, anti-abortion screeds, anti-government screeds, anti-Marxism, racism, among others).

So, I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep wondering who wins between the epitome of a soulless corporation and somebody who is, at minimum, an unrepentant jerk.

That said, I think it’s hilarious that he’s going to put characters like Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf into the public domain. I think that ship sailed quite a while ago (yes, I understand this only covers his particular version of them)

The guy seems to be an all-around douchecanoe.

DC’s reply: “Nope.”

Another article from CBR:

This seemed like the kind of statement that was as effective as the way Michael Scott declared bankruptcy.

LONG article on this from Cory Doctorow: