Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Snow White gets Dopey

The IP Kat features as interesting story just in time for the panto season. Apparently a production of the family favourite Snow White has fallen foul of copyright law (not TM?). A theatre in Bolton was due to put the show on complete with seven dwarves, that is until Disney got involved. The production has been forced to change the name of six of the seven dwarves (as IP Kat rightly mentioned, why only six of them? what about the seventh?). Now there are a number of issues here: firstly is the original article (from The Bolton News) correct? The media industry as a whole seems to intermingle the terms copyright, trade mark and patent as if they are all the same so perhaps they meant to say trade mark? After all since when did copyright protect a name? Secondly the characters appear to be the same (albeit named differently) now if Disney really were enforcing their rights then the characters would potentially be protected by copyright and finally the story itself has been around since the 19th century so surely copyright would be out of time? (although it should be noted that the IP Kat mentions the dwarves were not named until 1937).

In all honesty if the production company involved were to contest this then it is more than likely that they would be allowed to use the names. As it is they probably don't know their rights / don't think it's worth arguing over! Unfortunately most people don't know their rights and are reluctant to seek professional advice.
You can read the IP Kat article here and the original Bolton News article here.

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