J M Barrie’s gift of the rights to Peter Pan has provided a significant source of income to Great Ormond Street Hospital ever since they were given to the hospital in 1929.
Copyright Designs and Patents Act
The copyright first expired in the UK (and the rest of Europe) in 1987, 50 years after Barrie’s death.
However, former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan successfully proposed an amendment to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) of 1988, giving Great Ormond Street Hospital the unique right to royalties from stage performances of Peter Pan (and any adaptation of the play) as well as from publications, audio books, ebooks, radio broadcasts and films of the story of Peter Pan, in perpetuity.
Copyright in UK and Europe
In 1996, the copyright term was extended to 70 years after the author’s death throughout the European Union, which meant Peter Pan enjoyed revived copyright until 31 December 2007, after which it entered the public domain in Europe (except in Spain where the copyright will endure until the end of 2017, thanks to previous legislation).
In the UK, the CDPA therefore prevails so that the hospital will continue enjoying the benefit of Barrie’s gift in perpetuity.
Although the novel Peter Pan (also known as Peter and Wendy) is in the public domain in the US, the play (and stage adaptations) is in copyright there until 2023.
This is because the novel was published in 1911, but the play itself was only published in 1928, so its copyright was extended by the new term of first date of publication plus 95 years (set by the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998 for works published between 1923 and 1977).
This means that whenever a performance of Peter Pan is staged or a book published, a royalty (a percentage of the ticket price or book price) is payable to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.