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Old 04-16-2021, 06:30 AM   #1
neatoman
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When TMNT is public domain

Alright, so I noticed I managed to spark the discussion about this twice in the comic section, so I figured it might as well have it's own topic here.

Alright first off, yes, TMNT is not going to be public domain until 2080, not all of us are going to be alive by then and the ones who are will be 59 years older. It isn't going to happen for a very long time. However by 2100, the latest piece of TMNT media to enter the public domain is going to be the 4Kids adaptation of the Mike Micro, so we have a good idea of what will enter the public domain over the course of the first 20 years:
  1. 2080: The first two issues of Mirage
  2. 2081-2085: Mirage #3-27, The Micros, All of Tales vol 1, Shellshock, Archie Mini, Archie #1-7, Seasons 1-3 of Fred Wolf, the arcade game, the NES game (I'm not covering more games or Archie side books for the sake of simplicity but know that it applies to them).
  3. 2086-2090: Mirage #28-62, All of Vol 2, Image #1-5, The first three movies, Archie #8-72 Fred Wolf Seasons 4-10.
  4. 2091-2095: Image #6-23, The Next Mutation.
  5. 2096-2100: Volume 4 #1-19, Tales Vol 2 #1-6, 4Kids episodes 1-64.

That gives us a rough idea of what anyone can progressively do with the material for the first 20 years. And yes, technically copyright law could change between now and then. TMNT could enter the public domain before 2080 or (more likely) after 2080, but let's just assume the law remains the same for this thread.
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Old 04-16-2021, 07:34 AM   #2
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You're probably gonna need to scrap your whole chart, to be honest.

For all works published in the U.S. after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the entirety of the author's lifetime plus an additional 70 years.
https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/f...0States%20Code).
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Old 04-16-2021, 08:14 AM   #3
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And trademarks are a different thing.
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Old 04-16-2021, 11:26 AM   #4
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And trademarks are a different thing.
And I imagine with all the monopolies going on now, along with 99 percent of congress being nothing more than paid henchmen for corporations, I am assuming they will make laws to end public domain once and for all eventually. It's all going to be owned by some wealthy bastard or big corporation in the end.
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Old 04-16-2021, 12:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by oldmanwinters View Post
You're probably gonna need to scrap your whole chart, to be honest.

For all works published in the U.S. after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the entirety of the author's lifetime plus an additional 70 years.
https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/f...0States%20Code).
Read the page a bit closer:
"For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first."

The life + 70 years rule only applies in cases where the author retains the copyright. The only TMNT stories this applies to are the ones by Rick Veitch.
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Old 04-16-2021, 12:17 PM   #6
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on the contrary governments are seeing that thanks to the internet having a public domain is more profitable and beneficial than restricting it so that's why we started seeing works become public domain again and no one tried to lobby for it. Mickey Mouse, Superman, Batman etc will be public domain in just a few years, by the end of the decade we'll have a ton of new characters/stories/music/movies on public domain. Many believe that laws might be changed to lower the length of public domain.

Of course the TMNT won't be public domain by the time anyone reading or posting in this thread can see the benefits so it doesn't matter. Also it's likely for the best since TMNT would be full of furry and worst of the 1987 tropes.
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Old 04-16-2021, 12:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Warhorse View Post
And I imagine with all the monopolies going on now, along with 99 percent of congress being nothing more than paid henchmen for corporations, I am assuming they will make laws to end public domain once and for all eventually. It's all going to be owned by some wealthy bastard or big corporation in the end.
Disney has been doing that for years to keep Mickey Mouse.
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Old 04-16-2021, 01:13 PM   #8
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Also it's likely for the best since TMNT would be full of furry and worst of the 1987 tropes.
It already is, if you read IDW.
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Old 04-16-2021, 01:15 PM   #9
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Wouldn't new ownership just keep expanding the length of time it takes? Individual works might be a different matter, but the franchise in general might not fall into that category for a long time still?

I've always figured that it probably won't happen until the TMNT have been largely forgotten about anyway. And only then, if anyone picks them back up they'll be the "lucky" people who are free to produce whatever they want without some company crying lawsuit.
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Old 04-16-2021, 01:54 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by IndigoErth View Post
Wouldn't new ownership just keep expanding the length of time it takes? Individual works might be a different matter, but the franchise in general might not fall into that category for a long time still?

I've always figured that it probably won't happen until the TMNT have been largely forgotten about anyway. And only then, if anyone picks them back up they'll be the "lucky" people who are free to produce whatever they want without some company crying lawsuit.
Yeah, everytime something new or distinctive is introduced to the franchise, that becomes (potentially) its own trademark. So even if an original fixed work falls into the public domain, that doesn't mean every aspect of the franchise is public domain. That's why the stories and characters of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wizard of Oz, etc. are public domain, but distinct contributions made by studios or artists become trademarked and covered under different legal protections.
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Old 04-16-2021, 02:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndigoErth View Post
Wouldn't new ownership just keep expanding the length of time it takes? Individual works might be a different matter, but the franchise in general might not fall into that category for a long time still?

I've always figured that it probably won't happen until the TMNT have been largely forgotten about anyway. And only then, if anyone picks them back up they'll be the "lucky" people who are free to produce whatever they want without some company crying lawsuit.
Yes and no? I'm not quite sure what you mean.

The first two issues of Mirage will enter the public domain in 2080. What this means is that you can use reprint and sell those two issues al you want legally, as well as create derivative stories using what what was established in those two issues, nobody will have the legal authority to stop you. Now if you want more issues to work with you'll have to wait until next year, and the next after that if you want even more and so on and so forth. So yes, this does mean you can't freely distribute the 1990 movie until 2086.

But ultimately, if the earliest parts of the franchise fall into the public domain, the copyright holders of the later parts can't stop you as long as you stick to the earliest stuff. They might hold a trademark for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" or "TMNT" or "Ninja Turtles" or "Mutant Turtles" or whatever else but all that will do is prevent you from using those exact titles, you can still market your version as "Terrapin Assassins" or something to get around it.

And I really need to emphasise here that copyright and trademarks are different types of legal protection:
  1. Copyright protects the work itself and prevents unauthorised derivatives, this includes characters and the stories created for the work. It lasts 70 years after the author died but only if the author is the copyright holder, otherwise it is 95 years after publication.
  2. Trademarks protects the title and image. The exact title "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is a trademark of Viacom, nobody can use the title without their permission. It also prevents people from creating original characters that just so happen to be humanoid turtles wearing Zorro masks unless it's for parodic purposes. It is a weaker and less important type of legal protection and it requires constant use to be maintained, but it can last indefinitely which is why it's suspected that's how Disney will attempt to use it as viciously as possible when Mickey Mouse falls into the public domain in three years.
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Last edited by neatoman; 04-16-2021 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 04-17-2021, 05:39 PM   #12
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Oh, hey! Wanna know about something that is considered public domain in almost the entire world as of this year?
Spoiler:

Not in the US though, you Americans have to wait another 24 years to be able to print out a free copy legally.
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Old 04-17-2021, 08:07 PM   #13
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I've been educating myself on this topic and from what I understand Trademarks are really great protection which is why companies prefer not to go to court over them since it would likely lead to trademarks having even less power so yes, even things like the colored bandannas would fall into public domain just a few years after mirage.

It also seems that there might be some lobbying to remove some of the copyright protections so they don't last as long with a "whatever happens first" protection so more works can become public domain sooner. Exciting times how the trend seems to be reversing.
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Old 04-18-2021, 03:34 AM   #14
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Here is what could have entered public domain on 1 January if the pre-1976 American law was still in use:

https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/public...2021/pre-1976/

You can ceck out any year from 2010 and later.
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