Insane in the Domain

popeyeCopyright law is an interesting one. More specifically, seeing what public domain characters publishers / developers are allowed to use without paying anybody any licensing fees. What caused me to scour the internet for such information? Listings for games based on Popeye, Betty Boop, Tom and Jerry, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Superman appearing on the Phoenix Games website.

There shouldn’t be any lawyers getting in a tizzy over Popeye – he became a public domain character in Europe earlier this year, meaning anybody can release products with his well-known mug on. I’d quite happily play a scrolling beat’em up featuring Popeye, although maybe not one developed by Phoenix Games as it would doubtfully be rubbish.

Superman though is a bit different – he was created in 1938, and although UK copyright law claims that after 70 years copyrights for films and artistic works expire the character Superman still copyrighted. So they might get a cease and detest order from DC Comics if they try and go ahead with that one. Likewise, the earliest Tom and Jerry cartoons were first shown in the 40s, but with a new Tom and Jerry movie on the way whoever owns the rights for them might get the arse with Phoenix.

But then again, what do I know?

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