Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Frankenstein TV: what happens when literary classics drop out of copyright; Guardian, 11/16/15

Mark Lawson, Guardian; Frankenstein TV: what happens when literary classics drop out of copyright:
"One reason that the field of Brit Lit spin-offs is becoming so crowded is that Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson invented archetypes and situations that are familiar even to people who have never read the books. This rapid name-recognition is presumably why Fox originally gave its planned drama about a dead cop who is brought back to life to solve mysteries the title Frankenstein, even though it has no more than a vague metaphorical connection with the Shelley story. After objections of literary grave-robbing, the series is now, more sensibly, called Second Chance.
In tight financial times, it is also financially canny to plunder the vaults of out-of-copyright books. Adapt a classic novel that is still controlled by an estate and the budget is swollen by a rights fee, with the additional risk that the keepers of the author’s flame may also interfere artistically. Some copyright holders have been so acquisitive or restrictive that, for a decade or so, cultural democrats in various countries have celebrated Public Domain Day on 1 January each year, the date on which literary copyrights cease, 70 years after the writer’s death in many territories, but 95 in America. TV producers, you suspect, are among those whooping most exuberantly as another crop of plots and protagonists become free."

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