Thursday, August 8, 2013

H.G. Wells and Copyright

When reimagining a novel, such as my The War of theWorlds and Fairies, it’s important to make sure the older work is copyright free.  This is true even though over 95% of the words are mine, and very few words are from the original. Knowing that a novel was written before 1900 is not enough.  Since I didn’t want to do all the work of writing a novel and then have it turn out to be illegal, I consulted the H.G. Wells Society in England. 

Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science
H.G. Wells around 1890 

They are authoritative, and they say that any works of Wells printed before December 31, 1922 is public domain in the U.S.  The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, so it’s free to use. 

(In the United Kingdom, his works remain under copyright until December 31, 2016, but it would take incredible speed to have my work accepted, published, and then distributed in the U.K. before then, so that’s not a problem.) 

While on this subject, I believed the rumor that Star Trek: The Next Generation got in big trouble for using the Sherlock Holmes characters without permission.  The Arthur Conan Doyle estate still owns the rights until 2023, so don’t touch. 

public domain
Yes, Arthur Conan Doyle looked like Watson
but that is another story

But the wacko website io9 has revealed there was no trouble.  Paramount had permission from the Conan Doyle estate, for lotsa lotsa money. 

Back to H.G. Wells.  The only novel of his published after 1922 that I have some knowledge of is Things to Come.  I never read the book, but I watched the movie that was made back in 1936.  It predicted a Second World War that would last for decades and leave the world in a kind of feudalism.  Then it would be up to the scientists to lead us to a kind of utopia.  It’s the sort of movie whose predictions of the future were amazingly wrong, and the special effects were not special, but which still fascinates. 

The movie is in glorious black and white

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