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the bizarre legal issues that come up when a literay creation is in
the public domain but certain elements of its world are still
protected by copyright. My example was Sherlock Holmes, but over
the weekend The New York Times published a
piece about an even odder case: the land of Oz.
All of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz books are in the public
domain, but the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie is not; and most
people’s impressions of Oz owe more to that film than to anything
else. So while Disney didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to
make Oz the Great and Powerful, due to hit theaters this
weekend, the moviemakers had to tread carefully when including
anything that might seem to harken back to MGM rather than Baum.
Among the results:
Striving for a visage different from the one Margaret
Hamilton made famous, Howard Berger, an Oscar-winning makeup
artist, “was finally able to come up with a shade of green which
satisfied Disney’s legal team,” SlashFilm.com reported after a
visit to the set.
Copyright law is weird.
Bonus link: I recently re-read the Baum books with my
older daughter, and I’m happy to report that most of them hold up.
The Tin Woodman of Oz, a gloriously weird story whose
identity games venture into almost Phildickian territory.) If
you’re thinking of plunging into the series yourself, Mari Ness’
Re-Read is a nice guide.
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