In a recent appearance on the Newsy network, Jonathan Steinsapir discusses what happens to popular stories and characters once they enter the public domain, which occurs 95 years after the original publication of a piece of art. Author A.A. Milne’s 1926 book “Winnie-the-Pooh” is one such example – it entered the public domain this year, spawning the creation of a new horror movie “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” which features characters from the beloved children’s story.
The story highlights how adapting characters from public domain is not always an easy task to accomplish from a legal perspective. Disney acquired the rights to Winnie the Pooh in 1961, and their version is not public domain. This means that their contributions to the famous story are still copyright protected, as are their trademarks on the name Winnie the Pooh.
According to Jon, “When you’re using Winnie the Pooh in a branding sense, that can infringe Disney’s trademark.” However, he notes that copyright laws and public domain help protect artists’ rights while allowing future artists to build upon great work. “Everyone is building on top of everyone,” he shares. “You’re standing on the shoulders of giants.”
For more of Jon’s comments, watch the story here.