Copyright and how the Grinch stole Christmas

This week I have chosen to write about ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss which was first published in 1957. It was first adapted into an animated television special in 1966 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Universal then bought the movie rights in 2000 as well as the domain name ‘grinched.com’. Even the word ‘Grinch’ is a registered trade-mark by the company Dr. Seuss Enterprises, who made $10 million just in 2005 alone. Universal had to pay the company 4% of the box-office gross as well as half the revenue from merchandise, and 70% of the income from book tie-ins! Lawyers from Dr. Seuss Enterprise even prevented a ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ themed party in Louisville in Kentucky in 2008.

In the United States, where this work originates from, the copyright law only permitted the work to be protected for 28 years and then to be renewed once for a further 28 years. That means ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ should have been allowed back into the public domain by the 1st January 2014 at the very latest. However at the last minute, Congress in the United States changed the terms of copyright and will keep this story (and other protected works) under copyright law for a further 40 years.

A creative commons license would ensure that the copyrighted material would be able to have free distribution. With this particular example, it is obvious that Dr. Seuss Enterprises would not allow this to happen due to how large the profits still are. I found percentages of revenue, as stated above, for the merchandise and movie, but could not find how much Universal had to pay to use Dr. Seuss’ ‘Grinch’ in their theme parks. The business needs the copyright to stay in tact since Dr. Seuss died in 1991 as to keep ensuring it is profitable (as to keep the company running).

As it is a classic for children, do you think it would be better if the work was put into the public domain? Or do you think it is better for the story to stay copyrighted, protecting his work despite his death?

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2 Comments

  1. It seems that at this point, copyright would only be renewed to ensure huge profits for already huge companies, such as Universal. I am more partial to releasing the story into the public domain now because Dr. Seuss has passed AND because protecting the content and integrity of the work isn’t an issue anymore. Everybody knows that the Grinch is from Dr. Suess, so there is no worry about plagiarism or stealing the content. It’s all about money now

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a really interesting post! The research you’ve done on this is clearly very deep, and it’s really interesting that the Grinch was almost released into the public domain in 2014 before Congress stepped in. In regards to your question, I think it would be better if the story was released into the public domain. This is because, judging by the figures you gave, I think they’ve made enough money off the Grinch already. And since the original creator is now dead, I think it’s fair to release the story into the public domain now, especially since the story is so well known already! Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

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