"Peter Pan" Copyright

October 1995
J.M. Barrie assigned the royalties from his play Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street (London) Hospital for Sick Children, a long-established and much-loved charity. (There was a children's hospital in that street in the middle of the Eighteenth Century.) It is now the premier children's hospital in the country and is world-famous.

I believe Barrie's Will confirmed the arrangement, assigning all rights to the Hospital.

The copyright was due to expire 50 years after his death - 1989.

In 1988 Parliament was processing an updated Copyright Bill (subsequently the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988). Lord Callaghan, the former Prime Minister, successfully amended it to assign the copyright in perpetuity to the Hospital.

A sign of this was the credit (and presumably royalties) associated with the film Hook.

Project Gutenberg was founded in 1971 to make available works of literature, historical documents and the like in electronic form, the presumption being that the works are out of copyright.

The Project's rules on copyright explain that they treat Peter Pan as being in the public domain within the U.S. but copyright elsewhere, so its distribution is restricted to the U.S.

Until relatively recently there were many such cases: U.S. law not enforcing the copyright of works copyright elsewhere.

However now the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) & its successor the World Trade Organisation requires countries to respect each other's copyrights, so copyright works formerly in the public domain in the U.S. should have their copyright restored.

As of 1998 the US has at last passed a Digital Millenium Copyright Act which is supposed to ratify 1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation treaties relating to copyright.

The Public Domain Report covers these issues, leading to my Message to the Electronic Editor.
The Project's home page is www.promo.net/pg/ (as of Aug-99) [http://jg.cso.uiuc.edu/pg_home.html (as of Jul-96) http://jg.cso.uiuc.edu/pg/ (as of Oct-95)]
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