Geek Trivia

In The United Kingdom Which Of These Literary Works Has A Permanent Copyright?

Peter Pan
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Pride and Prejudice
What Is The Most Popular Successor To The Ubiquitous Bar Code?

Answer: Peter Pan

Although copyright lengths have been extended over the years in both the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other countries as well, there is one interesting exception wherein a particular work of literature has been granted a sort of permanent copyright over a work.

The author of the original Peter Pan story and related works, J. M. Barrie, bestowed the copyright for said body of work upon the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children before his death in 1937 (the official transfer of rights occurred in April 1929). All further royalties for the publication of the stories as well as direct adaptations upon the stage and screen went directly to supporting the hospital and continue to do so.

In 1988 when the UK Parliament passed the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act they included a provision specifically granting the Great Ormond Street Hospital a perpetual extension of some of the rights to, and royalties from Peter Pan and adaptations to ensure the wishes of J. M. Barrie were honored and his gift to the hospital continued to serve the children as intended.

The exact phrasing is in section 301 of, and Schedule 6 to, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988:

The provisions of Schedule 6 have effect for conferring on trustees for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London, a right to a royalty in respect of the public performance, commercial publication, broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programme service of the play ‘Peter Pan’ by Sir James Matthew Barrie, or of any adaptation of that work, notwithstanding that copyright in the work expired on 31 December 1987.