Monday, November 4, 2013

Wants to Create Raggedy Ann Show

Hasbro's "Dress Me Raggedy Ann" doll
Dear Rich: I keep circling back to an idea I have for some low budget, non-children's theater showcasing Raggedy Ann's anarchist streak. The books are in the public domain. I would like to recreate certain scenes with almost all of the original characters. It's not mockery, but it is weird, and for an audience different than originally intended. Might this be protected as satire? As you probably know from our previous Raggedy Ann post, the original Raggedy Ann books (Raggedy Ann Stories (1918) and Raggedy Andy Stories (1920) and any others published before 1923) are in the public domain. Because of this public domain status, we feel that a work that reproduces or recreates the stories in the 1918 and 1920 books will not violate copyrights.
But ... Alas, we can't be sure whether you will be hassled by the publisher, Simon and Schuster, or the toy company, Hasbro, who have cordoned off certain trademarks for the characters, making it harder to navigate rights. For example, the only movie we could find based on the Raggedy Ann characters was a 1977 film produced by Bobbs-Merill, the previous owner of trademark rights before they were transferred to Macmillan and then to Simon and Schuster.  Of course, trademark ownership of public domain characters has not gotten in the way of some theatrical creations -- for example, Disney owns Snow White trademarks but did nothing to stop movies such as Snow White and The Huntsmen or Mirror Mirror, two movies that borrowed from the public domain fairy tales, but not from the Disney creations.

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