This comic is included in my best-of comic collection Everything You Didn’t Ask For.
I did a little research into how much money Disney has earned over the years using public domain stories as sources for their movies. I couldn’t find one handy list, so these figures are cobbled together from a bunch of different sites. These dollar amounts may or may not include overseas sales or DVD/VHS sales, may or may not be ‘adjusted box office’ numbers, and don’t even touch upon merchandising. It’s just to give you a slight glimpse at the huge profits Disney has reaped by creating derivative works based on ‘free’ public domain material. Their true profits are obviously much higher than the numbers listed here:
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (released after Verne’s book passed into public domain) $11.2 million
The aim of this post is not to diminish the creative work that Disney has put into these films (seriously, there are some bona fide classics on this list). It’s to simply point out that they (and other corporations like them) need to relinquish their hold on their older works, to give American citizens the same opportunities the Disney Corp. continues to take advantage of. Because before the corporate manipulation of copyright law, it was our right.
To see what other works could have entered the public domain if not for the corporate manipulation of copyright laws, check out the Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain: 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014