When Video Game Characters and Stories go Public Domain

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monkeyking1969

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I believe most games published in the United States are copyrighted much like books, so for 95 years from publication. This means that the first commercial non-arcade video games will enter the public domain in the US on January 1, 2073, when copyright on the early Atari 2600 games expires. Using such logic the first video game Tennis for Two would enter 15-20 years earlier, it was first shown on October 18, 1958, so at least legally speaking it’s would be. Not that Brookhaven Lab has every asserted their copyright against Pong or any other video tennis games.

But, won't that be fascinating when games, we know that have kept hold & defended of their copyright, become open to use. I won't make it to 2073! Heck my 21 year old nieces might not even see 2073, but her kids might!

But, will be care? I mean the early video games were so simple. It would be like saying you own "checkers", nobody might care that thy are public domain. But people being people I'm sure someone on the correct date will publish "their remake" of Pitfall or River Raid and feel very proud. What will matter more is when PSOne, Saturn, and N64 games hit their dates. The idea, characters, stories, and art form the 32-bit/64-bit era will likely be more marketable and useful. Moreover, I'm sure some holder of EA properties will STILL be churning out Call of Duty games and in 2101 (or whenever) that property going public domain might cause a real ripple.

Again...so few of us will see these thing happen! But it just feels weird to think that someday everything I know from the last 20th century will be public domain.

What will WE see go public domain?? Well, the copyrights to Superman, Batman, and Disney's version of Snow White. Those will all enter public domain around by 2035 - in not a bit sooner. They say the expiration of copyrights for characters like Superman will raise tricky new legal questions about what is public and what isn't. The idea of Snow White is ALREADY public domain as a Grim Fairytale. What isn't public, is Disney’s conception/flavor of that old story, their visual characterization, and other nuances of the famous animated production. So what Disney, DC, and other big media conglomerates will attack is any modern nuisances of those character that appears in teh public domain use. Yes, Mickey Mouse will be public domain, but only the very first version of him which is a "black face" character would be public. Anyone who would stray and modernize him in a way that was still under protection would get sued.

A modern example is the Conan Doyle estate filed a lawsuit against the adaptation of Sherlock’s character in the new Enola Holmes movie on Netflix. The Doyle estate is arguing that certain character traits of those charcters only show up in later stories, which are still under copyright. Their argument, like it or not, is that Enola Holmes cannot exist. I am so sure every corporate-entity that owns intellectually property will start splitting hair like that.