Winnie-the-Pooh and property rights 2023-04-06

Let us start at the beginning and explain the complicated situation of the rights to the yellow hungry bear.
The novel was written in 1926 by Alan Alexander Milne, who then entered into a contract with producer Stephan Slesinger, on the basis of which the latter acquired the rights to use the book character in the USA and Canada. After Slesinger's death, his widow concluded a contract with Walt Disney, the contents of which were the subject of numerous legal disputes in America. It was finally established that the contract transferred all exclusive rights to the label.
How can we protect a fictional character?
According to the property rights, it is not the concept of a figure as such (e.g., a hungry bear) that is protected, but the concretization, i.e., a detailed drawing of a particular figure. It is noted that independent copyright protection for a fictional character is possible only if that character is always the same, has similar gestures, a similar appearance, a similar character, and similar sayings (e.g., the famous "For I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me."). The less developed a character is, the less likely it is to be copyrighted, which is a kind of penalty for the author. In the case of our character, we have no doubt that the bear cub is distinguished by many special features, both in appearance and character.
How long does the law protect Winnie the Pooh?
We have great news for all his fans! In just three years, both the work and the characters will be in the public domain. The reason is that copyright expires seventy years after the death of the author, and the author of the book, Alan Alexander Milne, died in 1956.




Tamara Besednjak Valič

Faculty Of Information Studies In Novo Mesto



Virág Szuák

Pannon Business Network Association