A new King Kong series has recently been announced and is coming to Disney Plus, which has caused the film community to ask if the IP of King Kong is in the public domain.
If intellectual property is within the public domain, that means that the IP rights do not belong to any sole person or company and the character or story can be used to create media by anybody.
Movie buffs will know King Kong as the fictional giant gorilla who has appeared in a series of films since the character’s iconic 1933 debut. The monster was created by filmmaker Merian C. Cooper and first appeared in the novelization of the 1933 movie from RKO Pictures.
Is King Kong in the Public Domain?
The short answer is King Kong’s original novelization is in the public domain, however, several companies and estates own the rights to certain versions, accumulated from a lengthy history of copyright tennis.
To put it simply, RKO Pictures still owns the rights to the 1933 film and its sequel, however, domestic distribution rights to the films are owned by WarnerMedia alongside the studio’s stake in Legendary’s Monster-Verse.
Studio Canal owns the 1976 King Kong films and its 1986 sequel after absorbing the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group – formed by Dino De Laurentiis who produced the remake. In this case, Paramount Pictures owns the domestic distribution rights to this particular variant.
The Merian C. Cooper Estate – named after the original creator of King Kong – also has ownership over the original book and publishing rights for the character.
Lastly, Universal has ownership over rights that don’t infringe upon RKO, Cooper, or DDL, including the 2005 movie and various theme park rides. However, some of those patents lie in a grey area.
Furthermore, the 1933 King Kong movie will enter the public domain in January 2029, after serving 95 years of protection under copyright law.
Disney Announces New King Kong Series
Deadline reported that Disney is in early development on a new King Kong series that is based on the monster’s origin story.
The series will be penned by Paper Girls creator Stephany Folsom and will be produced by James Wan’s company Atomic Monster.
Deadline also confirmed that the series will focus on the mythology of Kong’s origin story while exploring the supernatural mysteries of Skull Island.
By Jo Craig – [email protected]