This morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme (listen here – 08.23) reported on the controversy surrounding Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls. This graphic novel imagines a meeting between Wendy (of Peter Pan), Alice (of Alice in Wonderland) and Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz) once they have grown up. According to the publisher’s website:
"Now like us, these three lost girls have grown up and are ready to guide us again, this time through the realms of our sexual awakening and fulfilment. Through their familiar fairytales they share with us their most intimate revelations of desire in its many forms, revelations that shine out radiantly through the dark clouds of war gathering around a luxury Austrian hotel. Drawing on the rich heritage of erotica, Lost Girls is the rediscovery of the power of ecstatic writing and art in a sublime union that only the medium of comics can achieve. Exquisite, thoughtful, and human, Lost Girls is a work of breathtaking scope that challenges the very notion of art fettered by convention. This is erotic fiction at its finest".However, Great Ormond Street hospital, which has a perpetual right to a royalty in respect of uses of Peter Pan, thanks to a bequest by JM Barrie and s.300 of the CDPA and is not happy. In particular, they object to a connection with paedophilia since they are a children’s hospital (at one point Lost Girls intimates that a paedophile is present). Dark words were being said in the interview concerning Lost Girls being banned in the UK and/or Europe.
The IPKat thinks that the hospital’s approach is flawed for a number of reasons. Under standard copyright law, it seems improbable that merely taking a character and placing her in a new setting would constitute taking a substantial part of the copyright work. Copyright in Peter Pan expires in 2007 (70 years after Barrie’s death in 1937). After that date, the hospital will have to revert to s.301, but that section only gives the hospital a right to royalties, not the full rights of a copyright owner. This would mean that the hospital could make money from the novel, but not that it could stop its distribution. In any event, it seems undesirable to prevent such parodies and as for the connection between the hospital and paedophilia, the IPKat doubts whether the majority of the public are aware that the hospital is the copyright owner, and so a link between the book and the hospital is unlikely (but is made more likely if hospital publicly objects to the publication).