Author A.A. Milne’s children’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh has entered the public domain, and one of the first people to take advantage is Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds serves as narrator for an ad by Mint Mobile, the wireless carrier in which he is a stockholder. Mint’s ad, “Winnie-the-Screwed,” deals with an adorable bear who can’t seem to deal with the unreasonable cost of his wireless coverage, because he doesn’t know about Mint, a company whose brand identity centers on keeping prices low. Given that many of the elements of the property that are best known, come from the Disney adaptations, Reynolds also jokes that he hopes his understanding of copyright law is right.
The short and simple version is that Milne’s novel, the art published in it, and characters and concepts introduced therein, are public domain, while other elements that have been added subsequently (such as Disney’s character redesigns, or any characters who appeared in sequels or adaptations) are not. For instance, the character of Tigger did not appear in the initial book of short stories, and so will not enter the public domain until 2024.
Of course, Reynold’s ad also likely falls into the category of parody, which is protected anyway.
You can check out the ad below.
So how does the whole public domain thing work? After a certain amount of time, which is different depending on national laws, classic works are considered no longer owned by any one person or entity, and instead become property of the larger culture, allowing them to be adapted, performed, repurposed, or reprinted without any additional cost.
“Due to differing copyright laws around the world, there is no one single public domain – and here we focus on three of the most prominent,” the Public Domain Review explained last week. “Newly entering the public domain in 2022 will be: works by people who died in 1951, for countries with a copyright term of “life plus 70 years” (e.g. UK, Russia, most of EU and South America); works by people who died in 1971, for countries with a term of “life plus 50 years” (e.g. Canada, New Zealand, and most of Africa and Asia); and works published in 1926 (and all pre-1923 sound recordings), for the United States.”
We can’t wait to see Mint Mobile’s take on Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Aykroyd. Maybe with a cameo by Dan Aykroyd?