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 Using Public Domain characters

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sd2416



Posts: 8
Join date: 2011-11-24
Age: 36

PostSubject: Using Public Domain characters    Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:42 pm

Hello,

I am new to the whole Public Domain character world. I found it while looking up one of my favorite characters, Catman.

This has led to me looking into the use of PD characters, then, after discussing with some friends who have worked in the comic field, to tossing about some books/stories in the form of a fanzine/ashcan during the comic conventions we put on here to finally maybe self publishing something.

I have been looking up on wikia, comic vine and any other site I can find on then web (which lead me to here) and making a list of what characters are pd and who they would match up to in Marvel/DC in their original Golden Age incarnation. During this process, I have come up with a few questions.

Is there a site that has collected all the characters that are without a doubt in the public domain?

From what I understand, any character in pd is free to use be it the way they were in the golden age. You can change names, origins, powers, costume, etc as long as it doesn't infringe on a character or work that is not in public domain. i.e. I can use the PD Catman as he is, or I can make changes to him but he can not have the same costume or identity as the DC version.

Where is the line that constitutes that I have changed the PD character enough to copyright it was my own? Is it a new logo? Is it a change to the costume, be it a color change or going from shorts to pants? Is just changing the origin or powers enough?

How does one go about finding out if I can use Blue Bolt or Captain Commando as the title? I know Marvel has Daredevil tied up, so I couldn't use that as a title but what about some of these other characters that are out there? Also, how much of a change would I need to make to be able to title a book using the PD Daredevil? Could I add a symbol or adjectives to the name as well and be able to title it with that?

Has anyone here actually published anything with a pd character in it?


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great dude



Posts: 237
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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:38 am

sd2416 wrote:
Hello,

I am new to the whole Public Domain character world. I found it while looking up one of my favorite characters, Catman.

This has led to me looking into the use of PD characters, then, after discussing with some friends who have worked in the comic field, to tossing about some books/stories in the form of a fanzine/ashcan during the comic conventions we put on here to finally maybe self publishing something.

I have been looking up on wikia, comic vine and any other site I can find on then web (which lead me to here) and making a list of what characters are pd and who they would match up to in Marvel/DC in their original Golden Age incarnation. During this process, I have come up with a few questions.

Is there a site that has collected all the characters that are without a doubt in the public domain?

From what I understand, any character in pd is free to use be it the way they were in the golden age. You can change names, origins, powers, costume, etc as long as it doesn't infringe on a character or work that is not in public domain. i.e. I can use the PD Catman as he is, or I can make changes to him but he can not have the same costume or identity as the DC version.

Where is the line that constitutes that I have changed the PD character enough to copyright it was my own? Is it a new logo? Is it a change to the costume, be it a color change or going from shorts to pants? Is just changing the origin or powers enough?

How does one go about finding out if I can use Blue Bolt or Captain Commando as the title? I know Marvel has Daredevil tied up, so I couldn't use that as a title but what about some of these other characters that are out there? Also, how much of a change would I need to make to be able to title a book using the PD Daredevil? Could I add a symbol or adjectives to the name as well and be able to title it with that?

Has anyone here actually published anything with a pd character in it?


There is the free universe site.
There is also the public domain super heroes wikia site.
Image comics And Dynamite entertainment have published the next issue project and project superpowers.
Also,I think it would be a good idea to do some books/stories in the form of a fanzine/ashcan,and self publishing something.
Welcome Aboard. Very Happy
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sd2416



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 2:12 am

Is there a list here of characters, as well? There seems to be varying reports depending on what sit you look at.

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great dude



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 2:44 am

sd2416 wrote:
Is there a list here of characters, as well? There seems to be varying reports depending on what sit you look at.

Yes,Both Sites Each Have A List Of Characters. Idea
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sd2416



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:42 am

Where is the list here? I must be over looking it
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great dude



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:56 am

sd2416 wrote:
Where is the list here? I must be over looking it
Go To free-universe.myartsonline.com,And Click On Heroes/Villains.
Also,Go To pdsh.wikia.com,And Click On Characters. Like a Star @ heaven
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sd2416



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:55 am

Another question.

Say I want to name a character the same as a marvel character, lets use Chimera for example. Their version is a female with telepathy and can make dragon projections. My version of the character would be nothing like theirs, so as far as the inside of the book, I could use and name my character as I wanted. But what about the title? I can understand it with Daredevil, as there is a character that headlines a title, but Chimera is a name shared by several characters in the marvel universe.
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great dude



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:19 am

sd2416 wrote:
Another question.

Say I want to name a character the same as a marvel character, lets use Chimera for example. Their version is a female with telepathy and can make dragon projections. My version of the character would be nothing like theirs, so as far as the inside of the book, I could use and name my character as I wanted. But what about the title? I can understand it with Daredevil, as there is a character that headlines a title, but Chimera is a name shared by several characters in the marvel universe.
Yeah,I See What You Mean,Use A Different Name,Just To Be On The Safe Side!
However,I Have Some Questions Of My Own,Regarding The Public Domain Golden Age Super Heroes And Villains,And Your Anthology:
1.How Can I Send You stories And Artwork Through Regular Mail?
2.How Do I Modernize And Update The Characters?
3.How Do I Protect My Versions Of The Characters?
Also,Here Is What I Want To Do:
1.Use The Characters In Both The Golden Age And The Current Timeframe.
2.Use The Fawcett And Quality Characters,With The Exception Of The Shazam Characters,The Blackhawks.and Plastic Man.
3.Use The Original Golden Age Versions Of The MLJ Heroes.
Thanks For Asking.

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sd2416



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:26 am

great dude wrote:
sd2416 wrote:
Another question.

Say I want to name a character the same as a marvel character, lets use Chimera for example. Their version is a female with telepathy and can make dragon projections. My version of the character would be nothing like theirs, so as far as the inside of the book, I could use and name my character as I wanted. But what about the title? I can understand it with Daredevil, as there is a character that headlines a title, but Chimera is a name shared by several characters in the marvel universe.
Yeah,I See What You Mean,Use A Different Name,Just To Be On The Safe Side!
However,I Have Some Questions Of My Own,Regarding The Public Domain Golden Age Super Heroes And Villains,And Your Anthology:
1.How Can I Send You stories And Artwork Through Regular Mail?
2.How Do I Modernize And Update The Characters?
3.How Do I Protect My Versions Of The Characters?
Also,Here Is What I Want To Do:
1.Use The Characters In Both The Golden Age And The Current Timeframe.
2.Use The Fawcett And Quality Characters,With The Exception Of The Shazam Characters,The Blackhawks.and Plastic Man.
3.Use The Original Golden Age Versions Of The MLJ Heroes.
Thanks For Asking.


[quote]

1. What are you wanting to send me? Im not a publisher or anything like that. Me and some friends were recently turned on to this idea and are just trying to put our ideas to paper first, then will look to get something published to protect our versions/variations of the GA characters, as long as we dont impede on someone elses design.

2. What I meant by modernize and update was these designs/origins were put together 70 years or so ago. The world has changed. They can be brought up to modern times.

3. From what I have read here, you have to get something out in print (or maybe even a web comic) and get your ideas published and trademarked (correctly still?)
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great dude



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:47 am

[quote="sd2416"]
great dude wrote:
sd2416 wrote:
Another question.

Say I want to name a character the same as a marvel character, lets use Chimera for example. Their version is a female with telepathy and can make dragon projections. My version of the character would be nothing like theirs, so as far as the inside of the book, I could use and name my character as I wanted. But what about the title? I can understand it with Daredevil, as there is a character that headlines a title, but Chimera is a name shared by several characters in the marvel universe.
Yeah,I See What You Mean,Use A Different Name,Just To Be On The Safe Side!
However,I Have Some Questions Of My Own,Regarding The Public Domain Golden Age Super Heroes And Villains,And Your Anthology:
1.How Can I Send You stories And Artwork Through Regular Mail?
2.How Do I Modernize And Update The Characters?
3.How Do I Protect My Versions Of The Characters?
Also,Here Is What I Want To Do:
1.Use The Characters In Both The Golden Age And The Current Timeframe.
2.Use The Fawcett And Quality Characters,With The Exception Of The Shazam Characters,The Blackhawks.and Plastic Man.
3.Use The Original Golden Age Versions Of The MLJ Heroes.
Thanks For Asking.


Quote :


1. What are you wanting to send me? Im not a publisher or anything like that. Me and some friends were recently turned on to this idea and are just trying to put our ideas to paper first, then will look to get something published to protect our versions/variations of the GA characters, as long as we dont impede on someone elses design.

2. What I meant by modernize and update was these designs/origins were put together 70 years or so ago. The world has changed. They can be brought up to modern times.

3. From what I have read here, you have to get something out in print (or maybe even a web comic) and get your ideas published and trademarked (correctly still?)
OK,Thank You For Telling Me,
I Will Redesign The Characters,And Then Do Updated Versions Of Their Golden Age Origins.
I Also Want To Send You Stories Set In Both The Golden Age And The Current TimeFrame.
Such Stories were featured in all three issues of the next issue project series published by image comics.
Like I Said,I Want To Use The Quality And Fawcett Characters,With The Exception Of The Shazam Characters,Plastic Man,And The Blackhawks.
I Also Want To Use The Original Golden Age Versions Of The MLJ Heroes.
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argosail



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:02 am

@sd2416

Sorry, I've not been checking the boards recently. Let me see if I can answer a few questions....

If you're looking for a list of all PD characters, the best you're going to find is going to PDSH (public domain superhero) Wiki and going to the category, "characters" where you will find a list of about 1100 characters.

The characters on that site are researched pretty meticlously....more meticulously than anywhere else on the net. A lot of the contradicting rumors you hear on other sites are posted by people who really don't understand the law. That is not to say the wiki is never wrong. I think a few characters on there shouldn't be. But if youhave questions about a particular character, ask here. That's why this forum exists. But almost all of the characters on the wiki are safe to use. If you're worried, stay away from Nedor characters or any character currently used by DC. Plastic Man is DEFINITELY public domain, but that doesn't mean DC won't try to bully you if uou make money off him.

You seem to understand what is covered by copyright, but have questions about trademarks. If you wanna use the name Blue Bolt for a comic, check the online government trademark database. If nobody has used "Blue Bolt" in the last 5clone years, it can be yours.

Marvel and DC both had characters named Ghost when Dark Horse published the comic entitled "Ghost" about a totally new character with that name. I'm not sure how much you'd have to modify the Daredevil title to publish a comic by that name, but as long as it's clear that it's nit the Marvel character, you should be fine...


Last edited by argosail on Thu Dec 08, 2011 9:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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great dude



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:38 am

That's Right,I Know What To Do,And What Not To Do. cherry
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Florian R. Guillon



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Age: 29

PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:43 am

I've read this whole thread, and I'm still puzzled. According to Don Markstein, Quality characters had no time to lapse into the public domain, and far as I can remember, neither did the characters from Fawcett, MLJ and the likes.

That is the real problem - one claims something is public domain and another claims it's still under copyright or any property. For years I have wondered and still I can't tell. Yes, I've been searching through French laws too and it's still more complicated. There'd been a lawsuit concerning the rights to the French comic Les Pieds Nickelés even though the creator is long dead.

Anyway, I've been thinking over and over, and finally decided that using characters such as MLJ's, Fawcett's, Charlton's, Quality's, etc. was not worth risking it. To make sure a character can be used, better check whether it's been used in different comics. For me, that's the only way to be certain.
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argosail



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:28 am

Actually, Don Markstein is wrong, and refuses to admit it. He is possibly the worst offender about spreading misinformation. He seems to believe that DC has a legitimate claim to Quality and Fawcett characters by virtue of the fact that DC bought them and still ocassionally uses them. He seems to think that since the copyright was bought by a new company, that DC wasn't obligated to renew the issues. Don't ask me to explain his logic.

Fact: NOBODY renewed the issues.

Fact: Law required ANYTHING published before 1963 to be renewed, or the copyright expired, regardless of who owned it (or claimed it).

Fact: Characters can not be copyrighted, only the stories or works they appear in. If a comic issue has no copyright holder, then you can create derivative works of anything in that issue, that isn't derivitive of another copyrighted work. Therefore, if a character first appeared in a work that has lost copyright protection, they are fair game for all.

Simple as that. Markstein is incorrect. I am certain that the characters are safe to use..

Can't explain French copyright law. I'm not familiar with it. In most countries, copyright lasts until 50 years after the authors's death, if the property was privately held. So, it could be a while. Copyright in most countries has nothing to do with how frequently the characters are used...a common misconception, based on confusion between trademark and copyright.
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Florian R. Guillon



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PostSubject: Re: Using Public Domain characters    Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:57 am

OK, so I'll explain it again here in case some wouldn't know - French law isn't on copyright but concerns mainly author's rights. Which means that in the European Union, a character/book can't be considered public domain until 70 years after its last remaining author dies. Fact is, there's no easy way to verify wether something is PD or not, and there's holdings that claim the propriety of the work - the Little Prince is what comes to my mind.

Now for your facts: I guess you're right and I'm in no position to contradict you. Wink

Anyway, there's other facts you have to face.

I remember reading the Phantom Lady issue between Bill Black and DC Comics, the latter claiming the propriety of the character. So basically, if you mess with characters from Quality, Charlton or Fawcett, DC will most surely sue you and even though you're in your own right, you'd better afford to pay big money because they won't let it go so easily. The same goes for virtually every company that claims to have purchased characters from other companies.

Once again, the Pieds Nickelés case comes to my mind - the big company (Glénat) publishing the comics for years versus the modest association (Onapratut, I think) that publishes a compilation of new material by modest authors. The lawsuit lasted for two years, and Onapratut finally won.

So yeah, I'll repeat myself but it's safer avoiding a potential lawsuit if there's an alternative way and no good lawyer. Wink
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