Thursday, September 6, 2012
Night of the Living Kids Book
Muddy waters. Although the story, title, plot, dialogue, and characters are in the public domain, the original screenwriters (George Romero and John Russo) went gone on to create copyrighted sequels and remakes of the original using the same characters. (The two screenwriters couldn't agree on a sequel and Romero acquired the right to movie sequels using "Of the Dead" and Russo acquired rights to "Living Dead" movie sequels. Russo also went on to create a series of Night of the Living Dead comics using the characters and plot from the original.) No trademarks have been federally registered for "Night of the Living Dead" for books but the comics publisher has a reasonable claim that the term is used as the trademark for the series. All of this adds to the confusion surrounding copyright (and explains why a squadron of would-be and oft-bogus enforcers swoop down in opposition whenever the film is loaded on YouTube).
Bottom Line Dept. We think the coast is clear for a young reader's edition in the U.S. but you may want to get an opinion letter from a copyright/trademark lawyer, if possible. You have a good chance of prevailing on copyright claims but we think your activity may possibly attract lawsuits, anyway. In addition, we can't confirm copyright status of the film in the U.K. (where you're located).
BTW ... For those interested in "monetizing" the film, it's also unclear whether certain "separable" elements of the film are also public domain -- for example, the music (credited at different times to William Loose and Fred Steiner and to Scott Vladimir Licina), and the trailer for the film.