Sunday , September 20 2020

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the Public Domain

Brad Stone thinks he knows why The League film sucks:

    One of the film’s problems, and the comic book’s strengths, is enormously relevant in an age of rampant online file-sharing and courtroom wars over extension of the copyright term. In the comic book, Moore shows the benefit of having a rich public domain. He plucks old characters from obscurity, brings them together and makes them dance. The public domain works the way it’s supposed to. New creators enliven old works and send interested readers scurrying back to the original texts.

    At the same time, the film illustrates how modern copyrights restrict the use of established cultural texts that should be in the public domain. For American audiences, Tom Sawyer is added to the mix, but evidently Fox couldn’t clear his film rights, so he’s referred to only as “agent Sawyer.” A friend of mine walked out of the movie having no idea Mark Twain’s rambunctious kid was all grown up and inexplicably sneaking about London with a shotgun.

    Then there’s the film’s generic invisible man. Though H. G. Well’s lunatic scientist, Hawley Griffin, was available to Moore for the comic book, Universal made “The Invisible Man” in the ’30s and still owns film rights. So this is an invisible man named Rodney Skinner, and his awkward origin story, explained early in the movie, brings the momentum crashing to a halt. A better script could have fixed these flaws, but someone didn’t love the film enough to care.

    ….”The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” both the comic and the film, demonstrate why ordinary people should care about Lessig’s cause. A rich public domain enables creative geniuses like Alan Moore to reach into society’s collective memory and produce complex, fun and socially valuable works. The existence of the “League” comic doesn’t harm the original creators, it directs a new generation of fans back to the source material that continues to inspire pop fiction today. Meanwhile, the film shows how ridiculous copyright restrictions have become. Fox probably could have used Wells’s original invisible man but didn’t want to risk an expensive legal skirmish with Universal. Just the existence of onerous copyright law has a chilling effect on creators. [Newsweek]

The ramifications of our disfunctional copyright system are everywhere.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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