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Following my last post about adapting creative works in the public domain, I thought I would follow up by providing a list of famous creative properties in the public domain. This is by no means a complete list, merely a starting point for entrepreneurial screenwriters and filmmakers. Please remember that this list is for the original stories by these authors. Many of these works have already been produced for film and television and contain famous story elements particular to that adaptation that are not in the original works. Those story elements are not in the public domain. Only the original story from the original work by these authors.
For example, the original story of Snow White by the Brothers Grimm differs greatly from the story in Walt Disney’s more famous animated version. If you were to adapt a version of Snow White and used elements from Disney’s version like the Prince waking Snow White up with a kiss, then you would be in violation of Disney’s copyright. Another example is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which is in the public domain. If you’re adaptation includes a version of Frankenstein’s monster with bolts in his neck, then you would be in violation of Universal’s copyright of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff.
If you know of other famous books and writers in the public domain, please let me know and I will update this list.
Hans Christian Anderson
All of her work is in the public domain including her most famous novel Jane Eyre.
Just like her sister, all of her work is in the public domain. Her only novel is the oft filmed Wuthering Heights.
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Creator and author of Tarzan of the Apes. Only some of his work is in the public domain including the original Tarzan of the Apes and At the Earth’s Core. Please check the availability of his other stories before adapting his other works.
James Fenimore Cooper
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Most, but not all, of his works are in the public domain. The later Sherlock Holmes stories may not yet fall under the public domain but all of his stories before 1923 have including many involving his most famous creation Sherlock Holmes. Other well known stories include The Poison Belt and The Lost World
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Two German brothers who were famous collectors of fairy tales. Their versions of the famous fairy tales are all in the public domain including such cherished gems as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood.Buy the Moose a cup of coffee.