What's the deal with the US rights to Peter Pan?

Did I hear that it fell into public domain and only the English rights go to the hospital that Barrie left them to?

According to the official website of the Great Ormond Street Hospital, to whom J.M. Barrie gave the rights to the Peter Pan story, the story of Peter Pan is in the public domain both in the United States and the United Kingdom, while the stage adaptation is still copyrighted in the US, but not in the UK. GOSH is still entitled to a royalty on any purchased publication or stage performance of the Peter Pan story in perpetuity under the current British copyright law, established 1988

Strange. What’s to keep people from using the characters all over the place, then?

Nothing, particularly. But the trouble in America would be that we think of “Peter Pan” as being the boyish Disney character, and any attempt to use some other visage would probably be doomed to death. And, of course, the DISNEY version is still very much under copyright protection, etc., etc.

And given the history of Disney, Congress and American copyright law, will be for at least the foreseeable future and likely well beyond…

I don’t know about that. Fox produced a “Peter Pan and the Pirates” cartoon in the 1990s, and there doesn’t seem to have been any backlash from that. I also remember seeing an anime Peter Pan cartoon series, though it wasn’t very good.

As was mentioned upthread, the story and the characters are in the public domain, in general. It’s specifically the Disney film that is and probably always will be under copyright, the way copyright law is going. Apparently, you can publish a Peter Pan book or a Peter Pan-inspired book (maybe a fantasy retelling of the story, like Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms series) as long as you use your own character models and don’t follow the Disney movie’s specific plot and dialogue too closely.

In other words, Peter Pan generic story and characters are okay. Peter Pan specific Disney film plot and character models (Marilyn Monroe Tinkerbell, Charles II Captain Hook, Nana the dog with actual nanny/maid’s cap) not good.

Others have certainly made use of the characters and setting already: http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Starcatchers-Ridley-Pearson/dp/0786854456/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262886985&sr=1-1

This book (and its follow-ups) were published by Disney, and I believe there’s a disclaimer in the book that says it can’t be sold in the European Union- at the time it was published, Peter Pan was still protected under copyright in the UK. (The Ormond Street Hospital sued Disney over the book, although I don’t know what the result was.) Disney has always treated their version of Peter Pan as an independent property from the Ormond Street-protected version (and of course Disney’s Tinkerbell has been used as a mascot for the company for years), which got them into a few legal disputes with Ormond Street.

If GOSH is entitled to a royalty, then how is that considered public domain? They must use that term differently in the UK or something.

Sorry; I thought you were suggesting that fear of the Disney Corporation would prevent others from capitalizing on the Peter Pan story. I do agree that only the Disney version would be protected by their copyright (and more importantly, their trademark).

A crocodile. A very patient crocodile.

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and maybe thisguy