- Canadian author Emily Somma has filed suit in San Francisco claiming the characters in “Peter Pan,” including Tinker Bell, Wendy and Captain Hook, are now in the public domain and no longer protected by a copyright awarded in 1929.
The suit is a pre-emptive move in anticipation of legal action by the British hospital that currently holds the copyright to Peter Pan.
The Great Ormand Street Hospital for Sick Children in London already has warned Somma to halt publication of “After The Rain: A New Adventure for Peter Pan,” which has been published in Canada and can be purchased through the Internet.
A lawyer for the hospital claims Somma’s efforts to publish a work without paying royalties is depriving the hospital of revenue it needs to treat sick children.
Somma’s lawyer, Elizabeth Rader, said the author has offered to pay royalties but was rebuffed.
The impending legal battle is part of a growing debate over copyright material.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in October in a case that seeks to thrust closely held creative property — ranging from music such as George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to books by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald — into the public domain.
The copyright to Peter Pan and its characters was awarded by the original creator, Sir James M. Barrie, to the hospital in 1929.
U.S. copyright protection for Barrie’s works, including “The Little White Bird” — a Peter Pan prototype — and the popular children’s play “Peter Pan” normally would have expired in 1987, a half-century after Barrie’s death.
In a letter ordering Somma to halt publication of her book, the hospital’s lawyer, Alvin Deutsch, contends that a 1976 U.S. law extended the copyright protection for Peter Pan until the year 2023.
Somma’s lawyer disputes the logic and the math.