Van Helsing and the Public Domain

J.B. Nicholson-Owens jbn at
Sun May 9 10:48:15 EDT 2004

Sigmascape1 at wrote:
> I have not seen the new Van Helsing movie, but I've read some good reviews 
> and some not-so-good reviews. I realize that this movie is not related to 
> CC licensing, but I had to bring up the fact that this is an excellent 
> example of how important the Public Domain really is. Abraham Van Helsing 
> is in the public domain (from Stoker's book). The movie's lead character is
>  'Gabriel Van Helsing,' a totally new product from the studio responsible 
> for the making the movie.

This is an important and interesting point.  Not too long ago Jack Valenti
took his so-called "anti-piracy" tour through my hometown (courtesy of Roger 
Ebert's Overlooked Movie Festival) in which Valenti lied about many things. 
One of his lies concerned the public domain; he said that the public domain is 
useless and has no value to anyone, not his clients, and not to the public.

Meanwhile, Disney has built their empire on the PD.  Van Helsing is another in 
a long string of movies based on works in the public domain.  To name a couple 
more examples: Every Shakespeare movie is based on a work in the PD and The 
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (a graphic novel recently made into a movie) 
features many characters from the PD.

> It just shows how a studio (or any company or person) can build on existing
>  concepts and content, and how important it is to control the length of 
> copyrights.

And yet Disney (and probably every other MPAA and RIAA client, if Disney 
weren't the corporation to be so vocal about supporting the latest copyright 
term extension) refuses to contribute their work to the PD from which they 
continue to draw so much value.

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