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Category: Arts and Entertainment > Movies and Film
Asked by: sazypug-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 06 Jun 2004 17:24 PDT
Expires: 06 Jul 2004 17:24 PDT
Question ID: 357341
I need information on famous cartoon characters or characters from
fairy tails (TV, books, comics, film) which are public domain.
1. popularity of the cartoon/fairy tail character must be provided
(poll on individual character).
2. Must have proof of free: copyright, patent, and legal issues on
each character in case it is used to put on a product.

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 06 Jun 2004 17:26 PDT
Can you tell us what is meant by "poll on individual character?"

Clarification of Question by sazypug-ga on 06 Jun 2004 17:35 PDT
What i meant by "poll on individual character" is information on the
popularity of individual character.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 06 Jun 2004 17:35 PDT

Could you clarify your question a bit...?

Are you looking for character names that are in the public-domain?  Or
are you asking about character images?  Or is it something else you're

For instance, as far as I know, anyone cam make use of the word
"Pinnochio", but most of the images of Pinnochio are protected by
copyright, such as this one:

However, if you wanted to create your own image of Pinnochio, you
could most likely do so without violating anyone's copyright.

Let us know in a bit more detail what you're after, and perhaps we can help.



Clarification of Question by sazypug-ga on 06 Jun 2004 17:43 PDT
I need the names of characters that are in the public domain.  I want
to create my own characters and use the character names, but don't
want to be violating any copyright issues, legal issues, trademark,

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 06 Jun 2004 18:12 PDT
One question more, if I it fair to presume you are asking
about copyright status in the United States?

[Note that, for the most part, items that are copyright-free in the US
would also be in the public domain elsewhere in the world, due to
international harmonization of copyright rules]

Clarification of Question by sazypug-ga on 06 Jun 2004 18:19 PDT

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 07 Jun 2004 20:33 PDT
Hello sazypug-ga,

I just wanted to bring you up to date.  I've been compiling a list --
it grows longer by the minute -- of works that are in the public
domain, and the names of the characters from those works that are
well-known to the public.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at
how diverse the list is.

The question is taking me a while to answer because -- in addition to
compiling the list itself -- I've also been checking on the popularity
of the characters, and also double-checking the various laws and rules
pertaining to public domain property.

Anyway, I don't like to keep customers waiting too long, so I thought
I'd give you a brief update here.

Stay tuned...I hope to be able to post an answer in a day or two.

Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 08 Jun 2004 16:25 PDT
Hello again, sazypug-ga,

Thanks for asking a very interesting and -- like all matters having to
do with copyright -- somewhat frustrating  question.

Please bear in mind that I am not a legal professional, and nothing
here shoudld be construed as legal advice.  It is always wise to
consult an appropriate professional if you have any outstanding
questions or concerns.

Issues of copyright and public domain are rarely clear-cut,
particularly in the Information Age, when new forms of reproduction
have raised new and challenging questions of when an existing work can
or cannot be copied.

Happily, though, you are looking for names of fairly famous
characters, and this simplifies things.  Famous names belonging to
works that are copyright-protected are jealously guarded.  Any misuse
of such names is likely to be challenged, and questions of ownership
can lead to bruising battles.

For instance, this article from Fortune Magazine:,15114,404206,00.html

is titled "The Curse of Pooh"  and it opens with:  "Sure, kids love
him. But he's made everyone close to him miserable. Just ask Disney,
which is locked in a billion-dollar battle over his rights..." using Winnie the Pooh as one of your names!

Another happy fact for you is that your main interest is in classical
fairy tale characters.  There is one very useful rule in copyright law
that will will greatly help to clarify things for you -- works
originally published prior to 1923 are now in the public domain.  If
it's  dated  December 31, 1922 or earlier, you can use it.

As the US Copyright Office puts it in one of its helpful (but
convoluted) information circulars:

"...the U. S. copyright in any work published or copyrighted prior to
January 1, 1923, has expired by operation of law, and the work has
permanently fallen into the public domain in the United States..."

Knowing this opens up a large list of works -- and the characters from
those works -- that are free from copyright, and therefore available
for your use without restriction.  Works dated 1923 or later can also
fall into the public domain under particular circumstances, but most
of the "fairy tale" type characters have long, histories, and are
thoroughly in the public domain.

I've compiled a lengthy list of such characters for your consideration.

Since you also asked about the popularity of any given character, I've
included information on the number of times the character's name
appears in a Google search -- this is the best "polling"  indicator I
can think of for quickly assessing the level of familiarity the public
has with a particular character.

(that is, known by a great many people)

Peter Pan (2,350,00 Google search 'hits')

Aladdin (2,200,000)

Dracula (2,160,000)

Cinderella (1,830,000)

Snow White (1,520,000)

Frankenstein (1,440,000)

Robin Hood (1,300,000)

Tarzan (1,270,000)

Wizard of Oz -- (1,110,000)

Sleeping Beuaty (1,100,000)

King Arthur (1,030,000)

Sherlock Holmes (753,000)

Gulliver (751,000)

Pinocchio (748,000)

Alice (707,000 -- searched on [Alice Wonderland])

Moby Dick (617,000)

Ivanhoe (525,000)

Phantom of the Opera (419,000)

Lancelot (414,000)

Black Beauty (379,000)

Oliver Twist (337,000)

Dorothy (319,00 -- searched on [ Dorothy Oz ])

Rapunzel (307,000)

Mother Goose (303,000)

Scrooge (287,000)

Tom Sawyer (266,000)

Ali Baba (237,000)

Peter Rabbit (235,000)

Don Quixote (227,000)

Little Red Riding Hood (219,000)

Tinkerbell (207,000)

Little John (204,000)

Jekyll and Mr Hyde (201,000)

Pied Piper (192,000)

Robinson Crusoe (187,000)

Seven Dwarfs (186,000)

Uncle Tom (181,000)

Tin Man (169,00 -- searched on [ tin man oz ])

Huckleberry Finn (168,000)

Dorian Gray (168,000)

Jane Eyre (155,000)

Humpty Dumpty (134,000)

Pollyanna (129,000)

Chesire Cat (126,000)

Tom Thumb (113,000)

Hansel and Gretel (108,000)

Mad Hatter (106,000)

Hunchback of Notre Dame (106,000)

The Three Musketeers (105,000)

Tiny Tim (102,000)

William Tell (99,200)

Jack and Jill (85,500)

Puss in Boots (78,500)

Long John Silver (72,200)

Captain Hook (70,200)

Munchkins (70,000)

Three Blind Mice (67,700)

Little Bo-Peep (66,700)

Jack and the Beanstalk (63,200)

David Copperfield (60,900 -- searched on [ David Copperfield Dickens ])

Knights of the Round Table (59,800)

Rip Van Winkle (56,300)

Captain Nemo (55,000)

Little Boy Blue (39,500)

Wicked Witch (38,200 -- searched on wicked witch oz ]

Old Mother Hubbard (35,500)

Captain Ahab (33,300)

Cowardly Lion (33,100)

Little Miss Muffet (32,000)

Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum (28,600)

Friar Tuck (25,000)

Peter Piper (25,000)

Brer Rabbit (24,800)

The Tortoise and the Hare (21,700)

Ghost of Christmas Past/Present/Future (20,500)

Guenevere (18,100)

Sheriff of Nottingham (16,600)

Old King Cole (14,600)

Hans Brinker (13,500)

Little Jack Horner (10,000)

For the most part, I've focused the above list on characters from
fairy tales and popular fiction.  Of course, there are many well known
characters from other sources, such as history (Achilles is big these
days, and there are plenty of standbys such as Davey Crockett, Daniel
Boone, Abraham Lincoln) and the Bible (Adam and Eve, Noah, King
Solomon) that offer additional possibilities for you to consider.

If there are particular titles or characters that are of interest to
you, let me know and I'll be most happy to do some additional research
for you as to their status regarding public domain.

In the course of my searching, I came across a number of excellent
resources that you should be aware of:


FPD -- Free Public Domain fairy tales


Public Domain Books


The Real Mother Goose
a list of the rhymes

This list contains many of the most familiar nursey rhyme/fairy tale
charachters known.


The Brothers Grimm: Grimms' Fairy Tales

and their copyright notice at:

"The works that appear here are in the public domain. While we cannot
assert copyright on the works themselves, we do claim a copyright on
the site design, the HTML rendering of the text, the site's look and
feel, and the back-end code and database that runs the site.
Plain-text copies of these works are available from other sources and
may be made available here in the future..."


A site geared towards people who wish to publish texts online.  It
covers in considerable detail (perhaps more than you wanted to know --
but a good resource, just the same) the copyright norms in the US and
elsewhere around the world, and the steps needed to insure a work is
in the pubolic domain.



A terrific overview of intellectual property in general (written from
the perspective of those wanting to protect their works and the
characters within) that covers not only copyright, but trademarks as

In a nutshell -- and from my perspective as a non-legal professional
-- it boils down to this.  An old work like Pinocchio is solidy in the
public domain.   Particular works can still be copyrighted -- as is
the case with the Disney movie of the same name -- and the character
name itself can be protected by a trademark.  However, these
latter-day protections cover only specific products -- the actual
movie, or a Pinocchio doll that has been trademarked -- but do not
protect the name itself.

If you've seen the movies Shrek and Shrek2 (both copyrighted, of
course), you'll get a good sense of this.  The movies are full of
familiar characters -- including Pinocchio -- but the images of them
are all new, since the familiar Disney image of Pinocchio is


I hope that's clear.  But before rating this answer, please feel free
to ask for any additional information you might like. Just post a
Request for Clarification, and I'll be happy to assist you further.



search strategy:  Google searches on:

("public domain" OR "copyright free") fairy tale

("public domain" OR "copyright free") book

("public domain" OR "copyright free") text

("public domain" OR "copyright free") story

("public domain" OR "copyright free") cartoon
From: bretta78-ga on 15 Jun 2004 21:46 PDT
You may wish to recheck this list - the very first entry, Peter Pan,
is quite famously protected by copyright, that copyright being held by
the Great Ormond Street Hospital in the United Kingdom.

Likewise, Tarzan is also still protected by inyernational copyright
law, with the works of Burroughs protected by European copyright law
until 2021.

Also, you will find that many of the above names may be free from
copyright protection, but have since been trademarked.  For example,
Puss-In-Boots is currently a trademark owned by Dreamworks, and
therefore off limits.

(For more information on the differences between trademarks and
copyright -
From: pafalafa-ga on 16 Jun 2004 08:14 PDT

As bretta78-ga's comment makes clear, the application of copyright and
related law is often quite complicated, especially in the
international arena.  I agree that Peter Pan is still copyright
protected in the UK (but probably not in the US, which was the focus
of your question), but I disagree with most of the other points
bretta78-ga has written.

However, the point is well taken that caution is always advised.  If
you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to post a
Request for Clarification, and I'll be happy to look into it for you
in more detail.


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