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  • Copyright Law

When does 'Superman' enter the public domain?


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Answered 2009-10-10 22:35:43

The character of Superman is trademarked and so long as it is "vigorously defended" and does not attain generic status through dilution, can be maintained virtually forever.

The copyrights to the expressions of the various Superman entities (comics, Cartoons, movies, radio programs) are, in most cases, owned by the original artists/authors (a notable exception is the Max Fleisher Studio cartoons, which were not renewed and have lapsed into public domain status). Those copyrights will eventually reach the public domain but not for some time. Under current US Copyright Law the artwork for the original appearance of Superman (Action Comics #1 June 30, 1938) is not scheduled to be in the public domain until 2033 (95 years post publication).

The time before something goes into public domain is generally twenty years. However, time is not the only factor involved. If the publisher, artists, creator, movie company, or anyone else renews the copyrights or trademarks, then it will be that much longer. Pretty much, as long as Superman continues to be a large source of income, there will be someone renewing the rights keeping it from going into public domain.

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