As many long-time readers of Plagiarism Today know, every year I, along with my partner, run a small charity haunted house for the days around Halloween.
Though this project is a year-round effort on our part, I usually take a week or so away from the site in the run up to opening so that I can focus more time and energy on getting it ready.
That, in turn, is what I’m doing today, stepping away through November 2nd to focus on the haunt and, hopefully, make lots of people very scared.
However, I’m not leaving everyone empty handed. Over the years we’ve covered a LOT of Halloween and horror-related topics on this site. So, much like the zombies and vampires they we are discussing, we’re bringing some of these old posts back from the dead in what I’m calling “The Plagiarism Today Halloween Collection”.
So sit back, enjoy and get your copyright spook on!
Night of the Living Dead is one of the most important and iconic horror movies of all time. Not only was it the debut for George Romero (who sadly passed away this year), but it launched the entire modern zombie film genre.
However, despite being released in 1968, the film is in the public domain. Why? The answer comes down to a copyright mistake that caused the film to enter the public domain immediately upon release.
This article takes a look at how what the law was at that time, how that mistake happened and what the fallout from it was, in particular for the two series the film spawned.
In a reverse tale, we take a look at Frankenstein, a book written by Mary Shelley first published in 1818 and very much in the public domain.
However, the modern image of Frankenstein’s monster, including the iconic flat top, bolts in the neck and green skin is very tightly controlled by Universal Pictures. So much so that other filmmakers, seeking to create their own adaptation of the work, need to be careful not to make their monster too similar.
Though it’s strange to think that films made in the 1930s based on a book published in the 1810s could have any copyright issue, it does and will continue to do so until the copyright lapses in a few more years.
From copyright revival to copyright homicide, we take a look at the tale of Nosferatu, one of the most iconic vampire films of early cinema that bore just a little too close a resemblance to (then still in copyright) Dracula.
This resulted in a lawsuit where the estate of Bram Stoker sued the filmmakers behind Nosferatu. That, in turn, led to an order that Nosferatu be destroyed, which it very nearly was.
However, the film was saved when one print found its way to the United States, where Dracula was already public domain (due to a similar error to Night of the Living Dead). There, Nosferatu not only avoided destruction, but also found an audience and slowly became a cult classic of horror.
The U.S. copyright history of the film Metropolis is one of the most unique of any work created.
Originally released in 1927, Metropolis lapsed into the public domain 14 years later after the filmmakers failed to renew their registration. There it remained until 1996 when its copyright was restored by the United States sign and ratifying the Marrakesh Agreement.
A film that, for most of its life, has been in the public domain in the United States now enjoys copyright protection again. However, the story doesn’t quite end there as this was a fight that made its way to the Supreme Court.
From the unique and original to the… well… normal. The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be one of the most unique and original movies (not to mention an all time favorite of mine) but it’s copyright history is extremely mundane.
Want to get a license to perform the Rocky Horror Show (the stage version), you can do that. Want to cover Rocky Horror songs on your next CD? You can do that. Want to get a license to show the film with a shadowcast? You can do that as well.
As unique as Rocky Horror is, it’s copyright situation is very pedestrian and that has helped to make it the cult classic is by giving those who wish to show it a clear path to a license.
Bonus points to anyone who spots all of the call outs in this article (though the answers are now in the comments)…
Maybe you don’t really care too much about the copyright history of movies and, instead, just want to watch some great public domain horror films.
Well, you’re in luck then as we’ve got a list of 10 horror movie classics that are all out of copyright and free for you to download, share and enjoy for free.
What’s interesting about this list is just how new many of these works are. Six of these films were released in the 60s and one was released in the 70s. This is because of the way copyright law worked before 1978.
In short, while all of these films are public domain it’s not a list of silent movies released before 1923. It’s a surprisingly modern list of films, including many classics to enjoy!
Stepping away from films, what if you want YOUR Halloween to be free of copyright issues? If so, there’s a surprising amount of things have you to be aware of and consider.
In this post, we take a look at five different ways your Halloween can go from spooky to infringing including music, movie characters, masks/costumes and much more.
With each section, we take a look at how we resolve it our small haunted house and what you can do to avoid it yourself, especially if you’re doing anything commercial that might attract the attention of copyright holders and creators.
Finally, while we’re on the subject of avoiding infringement this Halloween, I gave a talk at HAuNTcon 2016 on copyright and trademark for haunters.
The talk is a basic rundown of what copyright and trademark are, what they protect, how to avoid infringement and how to protect your original work. It’s admittedly a brief overview, but should be enough to point out any trouble spots a haunt owner might have.
Here you can watch the video of the talk, thumb through the slides or download the handout.
All in all, it’s a great way to get your primer on how copyright impacts haunting.
Happy Halloween everyone and I hope that everyone has a safe, fun and spooky time this year.
I will return early November with your usually-scheduled programming but, in the meantime, I have a haunt to finish and people to scare.
See you all in November!