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'Popeye' goes copyright free in Europe

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 05 Jan 2009 0:28 User comments (8)

'Popeye' goes copyright free in Europe On January 1st the iconic cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man became public domain in the EU, following the EU law that restricts copyrights of authors for only 70 years after their death.
Elzie Segar, the creator of the beloved character died in late 1938.

The 'Popeye industry' generates $2.5 billion USD in annual sales and merchandise comes in the form of books, toys, computer games, canned spinach and even a fast-food chain. Being public domain means that anyone can sell Popeye drawings merchandise, with no worries of needing authorization for being responsible for royalties.

It is important to note that the character is only public domain in the EU, and is still protected in the US until 2024, 95 years after the creator's death. The Popeye trademark however, is a separate entity and is owned by the Hearst Corporation which should should protect the brand very aggressively.

Adds Mark Owen, an intellectual property specialist at the law firm Harbottle & Lewis: “The Segar drawings are out of copyright, so anyone could put those on T-shirts, posters and cards and create a thriving business. If you sold a Popeye toy or Popeye spinach can, you could be infringing the trademark.”

Mr Owen also notes: “Popeye is one of the first of the famous 20th-century cartoon characters to fall out of copyright. Betty Boop and ultimately Mickey Mouse will follow.”

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8 user comments

15.1.2009 5:26

When something generates $2.5 billion USD a year, there will be a copyright fight on any use (infringement), no doubt.

25.1.2009 15:45

All the more reason to force all CP that's 50 years old into public domain, infringement? fck that use a copy righted logo/trade makr to stick on your stuff so people will know its quality work. People will gravitate to the quality stuff if you don;t want to make it with quality then don't make it and let the property go...

35.1.2009 23:31

Just don't die. You will have complete and ultimate control forever!!

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 05 Jan 2009 @ 23:32

47.1.2009 9:33

Patents only last 17 years. Why do copyrights last so long? The RIAA puts more money in lawmakers pockets.

57.1.2009 11:07

Wow popeye still generates that kind of cash? realy? I mean seriously?
how is that when kids dont even know who he is lol. It cant be us older folks who grew up with him could it?

67.1.2009 20:03

It doesn't generate that much cash...that is why the EU let it become public domain.........Walt Disney merchandise income is only 32 billion.....Think how many characters they have; Everything from Mickey Mouse, Wnnnie the pooh to Snow White....The whole economy is down the crapper but not for popeye...must be all the bull-spinach he's eating!

78.1.2009 9:29

Included in the 'industry' is a US fast food chain. That may generate most of the Popeye money. I didn't know they had to pay royalties until this article. There food is pretty good if you like spicy food.

810.1.2009 0:49

Originally posted by Mez:
..... There food is pretty good if you like spicy food.

rightly said, but if you have sensitive tastebuds that you don't want to be burned to insensitivity, you can't find anything to eat at Popeyes... it's like there's a chili farm in the kitchen :(

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