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Jesus, Santa and Sherlock…Oh My!

You might have already figured this out about me, but in case you haven’t yet…here is a big revelation…I’m weird in a good, but sometimes obsessive kind of way…grin. It’s Christmas Day and I’m sitting in the Living Room relaxing waiting for Susan’s children to arrive. Susan is in the kitchen making a yummy squash and cranberry pie, music is playing in the background, life is good. I was sitting here thinking about the great time we had last night with my family and girls and, BAM, this statement pops into my head, “Jesus is in the Public Domain!” That’s all I needed to hear…my curious mind hit the ground running.

“That’s right…he is…Jesus IS in the Public Domain…funny…never thought about it before.” I guess it’s a good thing too…without the Public Domain, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same. You figure, Jesus, Mary and all the Bible crew are in the Public Domain…if they weren’t you would have to pay royalties to someone to use them in your stories, decorations and more…whew…good thing no one figured out how to capitalize on that one. But actually, I guess they did because any of us, or ALL of us, have the right to create products using Jesus as the central theme…solely because he is indeed in the Public Domain.

And let’s not forget Santa Claus…good ‘ole St. Nick! He’s in the Public Domain too! So is Jack Frost, snowmen and toy soldiers! So I guess you could say that the Public Domain is responsible for the commercialization of Christmas…thank God! (who is also in the Public Domain, BTW).

So why am I writing about this…on Christmas of all days? To make a point. The Public Domain is FULL of characters you can use to create all types of products and derivative works, and certain segments of corporate America (and other countries) “get it”…do you? Today marks the release of a new movie I really want to see…” Sherlock Holmes.” His character is in the Public Domain so Hollywood (or anyone else) can do whatever they want with him.

As a matter of fact, speaking of Hollywood, there are a number of new movies coming out (or already out) using characters from the Public Domain…A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland…even New Moon (vampires and werewolfs are in the Public Domain). Even the cruise I recently took demonstrated the reach of the Public Domain…the entire ship (Carnival Miracle) was decorated with Public Domain characters and images (watch for a separate post on that).

As I sat thinking about popular characters that are in the Public Domain, I began a list and soon realized that there were a LOT of characters out there. Here are a few of the gang I wrote down:

  • Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the whole Bible full of characters…and let’s not forget Buddha…he’s in the Public Domain too!
  • Scary Creatures and monsters like vampires, werewolfs, zombies, dragons, mummies and witches (and more).
  • Mythological characters like Zeus, Pegasus, Medusa and Hercules.
  • And then there are aliens (little green men and grays), robots, pirates and genies.
  • Oh and let’s not forget many of the nursery rhyme characters, characters from oral traditions (like White Buffalo Woman from the Lakota).
  • And the list goes on and on. It’s likely you are thinking of tons more characters even now.

These Public Domain characters originate from a wide variety of sources…I’ve already alluded to some of them…religious writings, oral traditions, books and stories, movies and radio shows, comic books, paintings and illustrations, patents and more. And of course, when it comes to creating derivative works using characters…well…the sky is the limit, from movies and books to t-shirt designs and toys…and any and all variations thereof!

So when you are brainstorming your next products…think about characters from the Public Domain. How can you use THEM to help build your business? They are a goldmine just waiting for you to grab your share of the booty. I guess the bigger question is, will you?

Happy Holidays!

2 Responses to “Jesus, Santa and Sherlock…Oh My!”

  • Thanks for the post Tony. It certainly reveals a different side of Christmas! I (like you)ponder different dimensions of things. As I sat in church on Christmas Eve surrounded by my wonderful family and friends I found myself thinking, “What if Jesus had been named Steve?” lol. 😉

    Happy New Year!

  • TimmyH:

    Disney pretends that the world would end if beloved characters fell in the public domain. A bunch of things have been done to Jesus, but he is still loved by many. For that matter, Mohammed is also in the public domain, a bunch of things have been done to him, and is loved by many.

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