Popeye goes PD?

According to this article in today’s London Times, Popeye the Sailor will lose its copyright protection in Europe on January 1. Supposedly anyone, starting Thursday could use E.C. Segar’s earliest drawings to create T-Shirts, posters, or whatever.

In the United States the character is protected until 2024, as U.S. law protects a work for 95 years after its initial copyright.


  • http://daryl-rhystaylor.blogspot.com Daryl T

    Somehow that doesn’t seem very fair to me.

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    Of course, Disney at this point pretty much has copyright protection for Mickey Mouse until the Second Coming. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Discuss.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Everyone prepare yourself for the coming onslaught of 420/Popeye/Spinach/Marijuana/Pipe memorabilia from Amsterdam.

  • http://esn.newgrounds.com Esn

    The article says that the Popeye property is still trademarked; only the original drawings are PD.

    That puts… quite a limit on things, doesn’t it? Reminds me of the “Sita Sings the Blues” situation; the recordings are public domain, but you can’t use them in an artistic work because the compositions aren’t…

    Maybe this isn’t such a good “test case” after all.

  • OM

    …You know, it’s not as if KFS has been treating our favorite monocular mariner with any real amount of proper respect. Not only have they not given the entire run of theatrical shorts a proper DVD remastering and release, they’re still unapologetic about that orange juice commercial from a few years back which made Popeye and Bluto obviously more than just “friends”.

  • cliffclaven

    I suspect we’ll see pirate editions of the Fantagraphics reprints, with forwards removed and publishers claiming they worked from different source material — the exact thing that plagues DVD producers who go to the trouble of restoring public domain films.

    Then you have publishers who actually do seek out their own source material — and print something horrible, like Sherlock Holmes books with the original Paget illustrations muddied beyond recognition. I’ve seen some rather lavishly bound volumes with wretched reproduction on the inside, and you really had to search to find a version where the engravings looked like engravings.

    The trick with Public Domain is to encourage and reward those who preserve and make available the original works as they should be seen, without it turning into another way for media conglomerates to extend the copyright. This is especially important with graphic materials like Popeye, which demand a lot more than an attentive typesetter.

  • Joel Brinkerhoff

    It seems King Features Syndicate has also let other properties go into Public Domain. One was “Krazy Kat” mentioned in an earlier post. KFS also lost the ownership of “Yellow Submarine” to Apple around the same time.

  • http://www.kellytoon.com Kelly Toon

    hahahahah here is that minute maid commercial:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCcYyB3OSQc

  • Jon

    Things eventually need to go into the public domain. Imagine if all fairy tales were locked up in copyright. Disney would have never made many of his cartoons. While I sympathize with you film historians, I don’t think its an issue when someone actually takes the effort to package public domain content in a respectful and brillant way. Cartoon Network’s The Popeye Show & Toon Heads were a great example of what consumer video producers could do with public domain content.