June 7th, 2006

lead pic

Well, Blow Me Down!

Run, don't walk, to the dollar stores, folks.

The Hollywood Reporter says a deal has been struck that takes all classic Popeye cartoons out of the public domain and grants Warner Home Video "exclusive worldwide home entertainment distribution rights to all Popeye theatrical shorts and TV cartoons."

We should all be concerned when a work is removed from the public domain, even if it's just a Popeye cartoon. Many people misinterpret the public domain as comprising of work that is owned by no one. In fact, work in the public domain belongs to everyone. That means, when something is taken out of the public domain, everyone loses.

The public domain exists as a repository of the country's cultural heritage. It is meant to provide everyone access to those cultural works, regardless of social or financial status; then, in turn, inspire further creatvity.

Doesn't sound important? Imagine if only those with money had access to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Moby Dick or Treasure Island. Imagine still if a single, multi-billion-dollar corporation owned all the rights to Shakespeare's works, and decided, via pricing strategy, who could read them and who could not.

That's what's happening here with Popeye, and if could happen to that property, it could happen to anything in the public domain.

For an idea of what you lose when a work is removed from the public domain, check out Project Gutenberg's Top 100 EBooks, the movies at Public Domain Torrents, or simply follow the Popeye link at the top of this page to a classic cartoon.

So long, sailor.