The upcoming movie “Simone” is based on the novel by Eduardo Lalo. Movies such as this one are considered adaptations or “derivative works” under Copyright Law. Movies can also be adapted from comic books, video games, and even songs!
The producers must make sure to always obtain the rights to do such an adaptation from the original work’s owner. However, these rights can be very expensive, so it is often easier to base your adaptation on a work that is already in the public domain because it was created so long ago that the rights have expired. Examples include works by Shakespeare and the Brother Grimm, and stories such as Cinderella and the Little Mermaid. Yes, a lot of Disney’s intellectual property (or “IP”) is based on works that are in the public domain. But that doesn’t mean you can go copying Disney’s version of the Little Mermaid, because Disney’s expression of those works in the public domain are fully protected by Copyright and Trademark Laws (and so would yours if you were to do your own version of a public domain work).
So, next time you want to develop IP and need some rights-free inspiration look up legends, folklore, and basically anything done before the 1900’s.
What public domain work would YOU like to work with?