Billy Dare and the Mystery in the Public Domain

Originally published at: Billy Dare and the Mystery in the Public Domain | Boing Boing


Pretty pointed, but it really does look like most of the initial adaptations of things that are now public domain tend to be cheap money grabs… the Pooh bear movie for example.


Unfortunately true. I love the idea of things lapsing into the public domain because I want to see people expand on ideas and concepts in ways the original creators couldn’t or wouldn’t. And the fact that new ideas were often built on old ones. We don’t need to get the court needlessly involved in such things. But right now we get cheap horror movies because creators are exercising the right that they can do something.

It’s funny that Disney already produced something closer to what I’d like to see done, Christopher Robin, than anyone else seems willing to do with Pooh right now.


A Holmes/Poirot crossover possibility thrills me.


I’ve been watching Mark Williams in the Father Brown series recently, and it made me curious about the criminal character Flambeau. I read that he is considered to be the inspiration for Poirot.

As enjoyable and far-fetched as the stories are, it kind of makes me wonder if someone will come up with a character like “Pet Enflammé” (‘flaming fart’ instead of ‘torch’).


That improves over time though. There have been many really interesting treatments of Sherlock Holmes, for example, with all kinds of interesting variations in character and setting that would have horrified Doyle.


I have always thought it would be fun to do something with Sherlock Holmes debunking cases involving Fairies or Spiritual Mediums, for example…“The Case of the Incredibly Gullible Author” anyone?


The tragedy of the commons is not a good reason to eliminate the commons.


“Tragedy of the commons” usually refers to the depletion or destruction of an unregulated or under regulated public resource. (Overgrazing of common land being the original example.) I don’t think that’s really even an applicable analogy to the use of public domain intellectual properties because there’s absolutely no limit to new things that a creative person can do with classic characters like Winnie the Pooh or Sherlock Holmes regardless of how many cheap cash-grabby things that other folks might also try to do with them.

The tragedy of the commons can be solved with regulation about how much grazing can be done on public lands, how much pollution you can put into the air, etc. But there’s really no need to regulate or restrict how many people are allowed to make Winnie the Pooh films.


Yes, the only way there could be public domain tragedy of the commons is if the derivative works somehow blocked access to the original works.

That’s been Disney’s attitude at times…


My kids, who are fairly savvy when it comes to public domain rights, were noting how a big theme in the recent “Chip ‘n Dale” movie was about the fight against the criminal organization that was making money “bootlegging” movies with altered characters even though a number of the (funny) examples shown are already in the public domain and one could legally make derivative works with no issues.

I guess that when they don’t have the legal ability to stop this the Disney corporation is just resorting to indoctrinating children to believe that derivative works = bad.


You’re absolutely right. I’m still quite favorable of the idea of new works derived from works in the public domain. It’s just difficult to explain the good of it – beyond the intellectual level of ideas being free and not letting estates reap profit without doing any work themselves – without good examples at the ready. There are only a handful of people I can win over with The Muppet Christmas Carol, and loving the Muppets already shows how good minded they can be about things anyway.


That’s a good point. It is interesting that Disney reached out for cameos of other IP but the bootlegs were of Disney’s versions of public domain works, not Disney’s original films or acquired catalogs.

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Well in all fairness I guess Jasper The Dead Ghost Kid and Spaghetti Dogs are probably not based on works that are in the public domain yet.


“Estates Of…” are not enjoying this I’m sure.

My mom cannot grasp Enola Holmes. “He never had a sister, I’ve read ALL the books… there’s no sister, what is this shit?”


Sure, that’s sometimes the case but who the hell cares? Anyone involved in the original creation of these properties is long dead, and the families have had more than enough time to try monetizing their inherited rights by now. The public interest far outweighs any distant family connection to the original author at this point.

Besides, everyone builds on what came before, and we don’t want to stop that. Even Conan Doyle said that Holmes was largely based on an earlier character by Edgar Allen Poe.


“Of course, he had a sister, Ma; she was just edited out of the original manuscripts by Watson’s bigoted editors.”


And what ever happened to Watson’s wife?


West Side Story is famously an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which is in the public domain. Every Bible story, and every version or adaptation of it. Good Omens, for example.

There are lots of adaptations of A Christmas Carol that are excellent – it’s possible to have a favorite version (mine is the 1999 Hallmark with Patrick Stewart), which is only possible due to public domain.

Lovecraft didn’t bother enforcing copyright on his creations, and invited others to freely write about and add to his mythology. Had he not allowed his works to be in the public domain, and had his estate continually renewed and enforced copyright (for example, the 1978 copyright renewal), his works would have been protected by copyright until… checks notes… January 1, 2008. No Call of Cthulhu RPG, no Harold West: Reanimator movie, no From Beyond movie, no Haunted Palace movie with Vincent Price!

There are many great examples of derivative works in the public domain. But if we’re not attuned to copyright laws, we don’t have any reason to think of them in those terms. It’s just a thing we enjoy.


Both of them! :astonished:

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