Copyright in Zombies, Vampires, Frankenstein and More!

Creepy Pumpkin ImageEveryone, it’s that time of year again. As many of you likely already know I run a small charity haunted house in New Orleans that takes up a lot of my time in the month of October. We’re nearing the end of the month and our opening night is Friday the 26th, which is just two days away.

So, for the next week and a half there will only be limited posting here on Plagiarism Today as we make the final push to opening day and run the haunt through Halloween. However, before I fall (relatively) quiet I wanted to first make a few programming notes.

First, I will still be doing the podcast. That includes today’s podcast, which will be at normal time at 5 PM ET (2 PM PT) and next week’s podcast will be held a day early, on the 30th, at the same time. You can view both podcasts live at the Podcast Page or hang on until Friday when I’ll post the edited versions.

Also, on November 1st I will be participating in the iThenticate Self-Plagiarism Webcast at 2:30 PM ET (11:30 AM PT). If you haven’t registered, definitely consider doing so here as registration is free and I’d love to see some familiar faces in the chat.

Finally, as some of you may recall, last year I did a series of Halloween-themed posts where we talked about how copyright has shaped some of the world’s best-known monsters.

Since I didn’t get a chnace to do a series of Halloween posts this year, I instead wanted to do a quick recap of some of last year’s best posts to for those of you who either didn’t see them or don’t remember them.

1. How a Copyright Mistake Created the Modern Zombie

If you’re a horror movie fan, you already know about “Night of the Living Dead” and have likely seen it. However, what you may not know is that, due to a simple mistake made in the film’s editing, the movie was placed in the public domain immediately upon its release. Though this was bad news for George Romero, it was a boon for the zombie genre and helped to forever redefine what a zombie is and influence virtually every zombie movie to come since.

2. Dracula vs. Nosferatu: A True Copyright Horror Story

In 1916 Albin Grau wanted to shoot a movie based on the classic Dracula story as written by Bram Stoker. However, he had one problem: The copyright in the work would not expire in most of the world for nearly fifty years, and Stoker’s estate would not sell him the rights. So Grau made changes to the story and released the movie “Nosferatu” in 1922 but his changes proved inadequate to prevent a lawsuit, which the Stoker estate won. The film was ordered to be destroyed, save for one copy that made it to the U.S., where Dracula was already in the public domain (due to a similar error to “The Night of the Living Dead”), and the movie managed to survive. However, Grau may have had the last laugh as many of his changes became canon in modern vampire lore.

3. How Universal Re-Copyrighted Frankenstein’s Monster

Mary Shelly’s famous book “Frankenstein” has long since lapsed into the public domain but that doesn’t mean the iconic Frankenstein monster doesn’t have copyright protection. This is because Universal Movie Studios, in creating its 1930s rendition of the story, created a look for the previously nondescript monster that has since become the standard for how it appears. However, Universal has closely protected that image, sending cease and desist letters and threatening lawsuits against anyone who comes too close to their iconic interpretation.

Bottom Line

On that note everyone, thank you for your understanding and I will return to normal posting the week of November 5th, after taking a few half days off after the craziness of the haunt.

If you need anything, please feel free to email me though understand if my reply time is a little bit slow. In the meantime, I hope the above posts keep you entertained through the holiday and that some of you will join me for the upcoming podcasts and webinar.

See you guys soon!

Disclosure: I am a paid consultant for iThenticate.

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