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Who owns Zenith?

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  • #1
    George Norman Phillips (aka Anthony Skene), creator of M. Zenith the Albino, died in 1972.

    According to the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988:
    Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work expires at the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies, subject to the following provisions of this section.

    Source: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988...n_2.htm#mdiv12
    So, prima face, not until the end of 2022.

    Gr.,
    Ant

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    • #2
      Does UK copyright not extend until 70 years after the author's death?
      The spokesman says: "J.M. Barrie gave the copyright in Peter Pan to the hospital in 1929 and since then the royalties have been a significant but confidential source of income for the hospital. J.M. Barrie died in 1937 so copyright in the EU runs until 2007 and until 2023 in the U.S."
      _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
      _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
      _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
      _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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      • #3
        The 1988 Act definitely says 50 years. But you're right, demos99! The extension to life of the author plus 70 years was made by a statutory directive, The Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations 1995, following an EU directive. I'd overlooked that. :?

        Btw, special provision was made in the UK Act for Peter Pan to benefit the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London indefinitely: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988...n_28.htm#sdiv6

        You might say that Peter Pan is in a copyright Neverland.

        So, M. Zenith appears to be protected until 2042 (and apparently 2062 in the U.S.). (Anyone who actually knows about copyright law care to chip in?)

        In answer to the original question, though, the copyright will be held by Phillips's heirs. Savoy Books has republished Monsieur Zenith the Albino: perhaps they'd know who they are.

        Of course, the character could be used with their permission, just as other authors have used JC, Elric, etc., with Mike's permission.

        Ciao,
        Ant

        Comment


        • #4
          The character himself is actually in the public domain, since only the stories are covered by copyright and you have to trademark or otherwise establish ownership of characters, as I've had to do with Elric and Co.
          I suspect that because Amalgamated Press bought all rights to the stories then the fifty year copyright limit covers them. It seems that Phillips didn't leave any heirs. Savoy's attempts to discover them failed, at any rate. In this case, you keep money aside for a decent interval in case someone should turn up.

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          • #5
            Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
            ... only the stories are covered by copyright and you have to trademark or otherwise establish ownership of characters, as I've had to do with Elric and Co. ...
            I'm happy to yield to the voice of experience here, Mike, but I can't reconcile that view with this description:
            ... the copyright which subsists in relation to the Mickey Mouse cartoon prohibits third parties from distributing the cartoon or creating derivative works which copy or mimic Disney’s particular talking mouse, but does not prohibit the creation of artistic works about talking mice in general.

            Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright
            Which might have said...
            ... the copyright which subsists in relation to the Elric stories prohibits third parties from distributing the stories or creating derivative works which copy or mimic Moorcock’s particular albino prince, but does not prohibit the creation of artistic works about albino princes in general.
            Are the authors of this Wikipedia entry mistaken?

            My understanding was that trademarking the character name was necessary only to stop its use in other forms; e.g., toys, miniatures.

            But I may be wrong. Again. :?

            I just found this...
            Originally posted by Ivan Hoffman, B.A., J.D.
            ... the character may be protected under copyright law as part of the text of that work ... it must have sufficient originality to satisfy the requirements of the statute. ...

            Source: http://www.ivanhoffman.com/characters.html
            I would have thought that both Zenith and Elric had "sufficient originality".

            Although I can see that explicitly trademarking a character makes the situation a whole lot clearer!


            And now this...
            Therefore, to warrant copyright protection, a fictional character must be specifically described and fully developed. At times overcoming this "description hurdle" may be difficult to achieve. This is because some courts are very skeptical of protecting "word portraits" since they are unable to "see" the differences between one fictional character and another.

            Source: http://www.publaw.com/fiction.html
            So, even without trademark protection, I don't think it's fair to say that M. Zenith is, necessarily, in the public domain. It seems to depend on how good Skene's "character delineation" was.

            But I may still be wrong...

            Although this is likely academic. If Phillips has no heirs, as Mike said, who would object to your use of M. Zenith?


            Cordialement,
            Ant

            Comment


            • #6
              Ant, the waters are further muddied if we look at the example of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's graphic novels, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

              Here Alan has used characters who are very much in the public domain, like Allen Quatermain, Sherlock Holmes, and Captain Nemo, yet the graphic novels themselves are copyright to Moore and O'Neill. Although they have no rights in the specific characters, the actual graphic novels are their own work and therefore copyright subsists with the creators as usual, I believe.

              Interestingly, although HG Wells' Invisible Man [Hawley] Griffin is a public domain character in print, for the 20th Century Fox movie, the character was renamed Rodney Skinner, because another studio (Universal?) has the cinematic rights to Wells' creation.

              Also, the villain in the first LoEG graphic novel is clearly based on and designed to be Fu Manchu but is only ever referred to as 'the Chinaman' or the 'Chinese Doctor' because the copyright for Fu Manchu currently resides (I think) with the Condأ© Nast empire.

              So, I guess it's possible for Zenith to be in the public domain while stories about him remain copyright. There's the case of The Night of the Living Dead film, which is public domain because the creators fouled up somehow when they originally registered (or failed to register) their movie.
              _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
              _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
              _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
              _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

              Comment


              • #7
                Originally posted by demos99
                ... it's possible for Zenith to be in the public domain while stories about him remain copyright. ...
                Possible, but I don't think that M. Zenith (and the "M." is important to distinguish him from other characters called Zenith! [Although I probably haven't been consistent in this myself!]) has the same presence outside Skene's book as Allan Quatermain, Holmes, and Nemo have outside Haggard's, Doyle's, and Verne's original works...

                As I alluded above, I think you could make a case for M. Zenith being peculiar to Skene's works and so protected by copyright.

                LoEG is a red-herring; copyright in an artistic work itself is clear, whether or not the characters therein are original, or public domain, or licensed. Compare Tales of the White Wolf.

                Cordialement,
                Ant

                Comment


                • #8
                  My best guess is that a new story about M. Zenith is unlikely to get the author into trouble...

                  While the character, if sufficiently distinctive, may be protected under the copyright of the original works by Skene/Phillips, Mike's experience suggests that it is wiser for an author not to rely on such protection.

                  In any case:
                  • (a) That protection would have to be tested in court. (Less clear cut than when a character is trademarked.)
                    (b) It appears that Skene/Phillips has no heirs, so no-one would take you to court.

                  Crediting Skene/Phillips would be wise (and morally sound). You know the kind of thing: "Based on characters and situations created by...".

                  And, as Mike said Savoy had done, put aside some of your royalties just in case!

                  Gr.,
                  Ant

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                  • #9
                    Monsieur Zenith looked around at the band that had stopped playing for the moment and whipped out his violin.
                    "*Ahem* Ah one! Ah two! Ah one -two-three-four...!"
                    "What do you think you're doing? This is a closed set!"

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                    • #10
                      Unless of course, your new story became extremely succesful and money making, in which case you might find a court case on your hands.

                      Where there's a hit there's a writ.

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                      • #11
                        Which would show the wisdom of "put aside some of your royalties just in case!"! :)

                        Gr.,
                        Ant

                        Comment


                        • #12
                          Originally posted by TheAdlerian
                          So, what does is the best guess here guys? Could a new story be composed or what?
                          I advise TheAdlerian to stop trying to seek permission from the members of this forum to write a Zienth piece and instead consult a copyright laywer for what is or isn't legal for him to do.

                          I'm not knocking anyone's best guess nor am I just brushing him off. I suspect understanding the cost of protecting yourself ahead of the act will give you an idea of what it will cost you in the future if you don't.
                          The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

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                          • #13
                            Monsieur Zienth stopped dead in the hallway of the seedy bar and watched agog as a man dressed almost identically to himself was strong armed off of the stage by burly bouncers.
                            "Vive la difference...!" shouted the struggling albino, a cry which faded into the backstage area.
                            Monsieur Zienth quickly hid his own violin case under his cloak and disappeared into the foggy night air...
                            "What do you think you're doing? This is a closed set!"

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                            • #14
                              I'd like to hear a story about M. Nadir, the mysterious crime-fighter with jet-black skin and hair...

                              Gr.,
                              Ant

                              Comment


                              • #15
                                As I have not read Skene, I'd be interested to know how close Mike's M. Zenith in "Sir Milk & Blood" is to Skene's.

                                His physical description is certainly on the nail for Elric... And he's a dead ringer for Count Zodiac in Michael Moorcock's Multiverse...

                                Gr.,
                                Ant

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