How Copyright Infringement Turned Vampires Into Big Business

from the damn-helpful-thieving-'creatives' dept

If you’ve spent any time in the comment threads here at Techdirt, you’ve probably run into someone decrying derivative works as uncreative and useless, arguing that art should be created in a vacuum, preferably a vacuum composed of extensive copyright protection. The impression is given that anyone who builds off another’s works is some sort of leech who could never create anything of value.However, it has been shown over and over again that this simply isn’t the truth. Jonathan Bailey of the Plagarism Today blog has written up a fascinating piece on the early copyright battle between Bram Stoker’s estate and Albin Grau, the producer of the 1922 film “Nosferatu.”

Film producer Albin Grau originally got the idea to shoot a vampire movie in 1916. Serving in Serbia during WWI, Grau was inspired to make a film about vampires after speaking with local farmers about the lore.

Grau, however, hit a major snag. He had wanted to do a expressionistic retelling of the story of Dracula but the estate of Bram Stoker, spearheaded by his widow, Florence Stoker, would not sell him the rights. Though the book was already in the public domain in the U.S. due to an error in copyright notice (similar to the one that caused Night of the Living Dead to lapse 45 years later), in Grau’s native Germany, which was already a signatory to the Berne Convention (The U.S. would not sign until 1988), the work would not lapse until 1962, fifty years after Bram Stoker’s death.

As Dailey Bailey points out, copyright law was already in sad, inconsistent shape back in the 1920s. If Grau had been American, “Dracula” would have been a public domain work and this story would be much different. However, Grau being German, his options were to either work around Stoker’s estate or wait for the copyright to lapse, which wouldn’t be for another four decades.

Instead of giving up, Grau got (wait for it…) creative:

Undaunted, Grau pressed forward with the film and it started production in 1921. However, several changes were made in the movie in a bid to duck a copyright lawsuit. The name of the movie was changed to Nosferatu, the main character’s name was changed to Count Orlok and the plot itself received many tweaks and modifications.

Unfortunately, these changes weren’t enough and Stoker’s estate filed suit. Since early prints still contained the name “Dracula,” the court ordered that all prints of the film be destroyed. Grau was forced to file for bankruptcy and his film studio was shuttered. “Nosferatu” would have been nothing more than a tiny footnote in film and copyright history, but one copy had already made its way to the U.S., where Stoker’s work was public domain.

The film slowly began to gather an audience in the U.S. and, by the 1960s, had earned a place as a horror classic. By then, Dracula was in the public domain worldwide and Nosferatu could be shown freely (though the film itself was protected by copyright in many locations, once again though, not the U.S.).

More importantly though, Nosferatu is the first vampire film that is known to have survived into the modern age. As such, it set many of the templates and rules for the films that would follow, including changing some of vampire lore forever.

Dailey Bailey details some of these changes made in the failed attempt to avoid litigation:

The biggest change was the ending of the movie. In Nosferatu, Count Orlok is burned up by the sunlight. However, in Bram Stoker’s version, sunlight was harmless to vampires, it just weakened them slightly.

Another difference is that a bite from Orlok does not create a new vampire. Rather, Orlok merely kills his victims. This theme too would be adopted by later films, which focused less on the “curse” element of vampirism and often gave vampires a choice as to whether or not a victim would live as a vampire or perish (IE: Interview with a Vampire).

And here we arrive at the crux of the continued argument against derivative works. Statements are made to the effect that “x should have licensed y” or “make original art only,” but these detractors overlook the positive impact that derivative works can have. Like, say, increasing interest in a certain subject:

Vampire lore would have been very different without Nosferatu. However, the biggest change might be that there would have been almost no vampire movies at all… After all, without Nosferatu proving the interest and potential profit from vampire movies, it’s debatable whether Universal and/or Hammer Films would have taken up the Dracula name.

Dailey Bailey sums it all up with a statement that sounds like it may have come from some of the faithful “freetarded:”

In the end, though it’s the later Draculas that would become better known, it’s likely none of them would have ever done so if it hadn’t been for this copyright infringing film that managed to stay alive with a stake through its heart.

I can’t argue with that, although I bet some of the commenters can. But before you broadbrush Dailey Bailey as just another member of Pirate Mike’s choir, perhaps you should click through and take a good long look at his site.

 

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Comments on “How Copyright Infringement Turned Vampires Into Big Business”

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129 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t have to take a broadbrush out for Dailey, because his intention is clear – revisionist history, and a little wishful thinking.

“In the end, though it’s the later Draculas that would become better known, it’s likely none of them would have ever done so if it hadn’t been for this copyright infringing film that managed to stay alive with a stake through its heart.”

He suggests that nobody else would have noticed the work of Bram Stoker existed? That would sort of be ignoring the 1924 stage play, which was adapted to become the 1931 film Dracula, starring Bela Lagosi.

Trying to pin the popularity of Dracula films on a little known movie, and ignoring the popular stage plays and classical movie of the same name is just revisionist history.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“He suggests that nobody else would have noticed the work of Bram Stoker existed? That would sort of be ignoring the 1924 stage play, which was adapted to become the 1931 film Dracula, starring Bela Lagosi.”

That’s LUgosi, son, not “LAgosi”.

Would the play have been produced if not for the controversy behind Nosferatu the year before?
Not likely.
Dracula rode the coattails (or cape tails) of Nosferatu, which garnered positive reviews from almost all film critics at the time.
In addition, it’s unlikely Stoker’s widow would have been as incensed as she was if the movie had been a box office flop!

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Did you even read the post? The point of all this is that the culture of vampire lore grew, multiplying interest beyond what Stoker’s work alone would have garnered. That this culture incorporated the canon (cannon?, whatever) of the infringing work to the point where works today are based as much on it as the original speaks volumes to how culture works.

Nobody is discounting the work of Stoker here. The point is that the derivative is important as well and stifling that work is silly….

Lauriel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The point of all this is that the culture of vampire lore grew, multiplying interest beyond what Stoker’s work alone would have garnered…
Nobody is discounting the work of Stoker here. The point is that the derivative is important as well and stifling that work is silly.

ITA. It’s also worth pointing out that Stoker’s Dracula ‘borrowed’ (or should I say ‘freetarded’? Is that a word yet?) from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s short story Carmilla. Le Fanu’s work was first published in 1872, and Stoker’s in 1897, 25 years later.

Le Fanu also built on earlier vampire lore, but was the first to take it out of the ‘monster’ category and build the dark subculture more commonly associated with vampire lore. He was also developed the romance and seduction that is a common trait to more modern vampire stories, including Stoker’s.

To reiterate DH, this is not to discount Bram Stoker’s work – his brought in some original elements of his own, and was certainly more widely circulated than Le Fanu’s. But he definitely built on prior art, rather than creating it “out of a vacuum”, as it were.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“He suggests that nobody else would have noticed the work of Bram Stoker existed?”

No, if you read the article, he makes specific mention of how certain aspects of vampire lore were invented for Nosferatu that weren’t present in the original book. Fatal reaction to sunlight, for example.

Tell you what, take a quick tally. Tell me how many vampire movies in the last century have used Stoker/Lugosi’s death by staking, and how many used Nosferatu’s sunlight death in their climaxes. I suspect Murnau’s film wins hands down.

“Trying to pin the popularity of Dracula films on a little known movie,”

You’re an incredibly ignorant person if you think that Nosferatu is “little known”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Paul, honestly: go out on the street, flag down 100 people. Ask how many of them know Dracula (they pretty much all will). As them about Nosferatu and you will get a blank look.

That is the definition of “little known”.

What “lore” has been pulled from this movie and applied over time is much more likely attributable to film students and micro-niche fans seeing the film and figuring they can make off with the ideas without risk.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“That is the definition of “little known”.”

No. No it isn’t. The definition of “little known” in a global economy is not what 100 people outside my front door recognize. I mean….did you really just fucking type that out, look it over, and STILL decide to hit the submit button? What the hell, man? It’s probably best, if you wish to make a point in an argument, not to say something so fundementally stupid that everyone points and laughs at you like a kid wearing his underwear on the outside of his jeans….

“What “lore” has been pulled from this movie and applied over time is much more likely attributable to film students and micro-niche fans seeing the film and figuring they can make off with the ideas without risk.”

Uh, no. It’s attributable to the person who developed the idea originally, which was in Nosferatu. Unless you’re suggesting that the vampire shows on HBO and the CW were created by little “film students and micro-niche fans” as opposed to big studio producers? Or Supernatural, who also incorporated Nosferatu lore into their show?

Seriously, you sound really, hopelessly stupid on this one. I previously thought nothing could be dumber than just simply yelling “Pirate Mike” and “Freetard” and “All you raporists are destroying X industry”.

Thanks for proving me wrong….I guess….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Watching you and Paul trying so hard to stress on one point of my post, ignoring the rest of it (and all of the history that comes with the Dracula movies to this very day) is amusing to say the least.

” It’s attributable to the person who developed the idea originally, which was in Nosferatu. Unless you’re suggesting that the vampire shows on HBO and the CW were created by little “film students and micro-niche fans” as opposed to big studio producers? “

I suspect this is why many who are here support “remix” music, because they can’t manage to think very originally. Have you considered that the people who created the HBO and CW shows were in face once film students? Could they also be micro-niche fans?

Moreover, could they be fans of movies and TV shows that were influenced by other shows before them, other movies, other stage plays, and such that were conceived by people who were once film students?

Your attitude is as if the period from 1924 to 1995 never existed. You don’t think that the HBO shows might be using ideas from books and movies from, say, the 50s or 60s? Heck, they could have been influenced by George Hamilton for all you know.

Please try to come up with arguments that actually mean something.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Your attitude is as if the period from 1924 to 1995 never existed. You don’t think that the HBO shows might be using ideas from books and movies from, say, the 50s or 60s? Heck, they could have been influenced by George Hamilton for all you know.”

No, dolt, the point is that all of that time included works that continued to build on both what Stoker and Nosferatu BOTH DID. And yes, there were other influences as well. And the vampire culture is BETTER FOR IT. Thank you for making my point for me. More culture through derivative works breeds more culture. Rinse and repeat.

Blocking derivatives means less growth of culture.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Actually, here’s a little thought experiment:

Neither the original novel nor the play, nor Tod Browning’s version nor the Spanish language version shot at the same time contained the death by sunlight.

The next “official” adaptation of the novel was in 1958 by Hammer. Here, Christopher Lee memorably disintegrates when hit by sunlight.

Now, it could be that they came up with this independently. It may be that they got the idea from some other work independent of Nosferatu. Certainly I don’t have time to research all the books, comic books, etc. that may have been produced in the time (many of them possibly influenced by Nosferatu themselves of course).

Or, they could simply have been influenced, directly or indirectly, by Nosferatu. Director Terence Fisher would have been in his early 20s when that film came out, so may well have seen it when it first came out. there’s a long history of genre directors being influence by the German impressionist style of the time.

So, barring some direct influence I’ve missed, what’s more likely? That Fisher or screenwriter Jimmy Sangster came up with a climax that just happened to resemble that of a film that’s still considered one of the best adaptations of the novel?

There’s plenty of answers and arguments either way, but we can’t possibly know for sure. Occam’s Razor suggests that the fact that whatever Nosferatu’s current fame among the general population, it was enough to have influenced one of the other most famous works based on the novel with something otherwise not present.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Or, they could simply have been influenced, directly or indirectly, by Nosferatu.

You don’t have to look that hard. The Bela Lugosi movie was directly influenced by Nosferatu, and in fact lifted entire scenes from the movie (which were neither in Stoker’s book nor the play):

The screenwriters carefully studied the silent, unauthorized version, Nosferatu for inspiration. One bit of business lifted directly from a nearly identical scene in Nosferatu that does not appear in Stoker’s novel was the early scene at the Count’s castle when Renfield accidentally pricks his finger on a paper clip and it starts to bleed, and Dracula creeps toward him with glee, only to be repelled when the crucifix falls in front of the bleeding finger.

Dracula (1931 Film) (Wikipedia)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Your attitude is as if the period from 1924 to 1995 never existed. You don’t think that the HBO shows might be using ideas from books and movies from, say, the 50s or 60s? Heck, they could have been influenced by George Hamilton for all you know.”

So your argument is current vampire media is not inspired by Nosferatu so much as work that was inspired by Nosferatu? Vampires today are more like Nosferatu than Dracula. That is factual. The cultural mythos comes from the derivative, suck it up and deal with it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Watching you and Paul trying so hard to stress on one point of my post, ignoring the rest of it (and all of the history that comes with the Dracula movies to this very day) is amusing to say the least.”

We addressed every point, some of which were already answered in the article you’re responding to.

“You don’t think that the HBO shows might be using ideas from books and movies from, say, the 50s or 60s?”

Maybe they would. However, without Murnau’s version having so famously used the death-by-sunlight sequence, would any of those have had the same themes to crib from, however indirectly? perhaps the makers of those shows think that they’re cribbing from The Lost Boys, but that film may have been cribbing from Hammer’s Dracula, which borrow the point from Nosferatu.

90+ years is a hell of a lot of lineage, and the lines can be murky, but vampire history would have been very different without Murnau’s film.

“Please try to come up with arguments that actually mean something.”

Yet again, you first.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Paul, again, let’s be a little more honest here.

Techdirt is the place that claims over and over again “independent invention” and pushes the idea that more than one person can have the same idea. Yet here, Tim is effectively trying to push a history re-write that suggests that NOBODY ELSE could have come up with any of these variations on Dracula or the “blood sucker” myth.

So which one are you going with? Mike’s independent creation, or Tim’s “one source for everything” history re-write?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Paul, again, let’s be a little more honest here.”

(snicker….)

“Techdirt is the place that claims over and over again “independent invention” and pushes the idea that more than one person can have the same idea.”

Because that’s true. It’s also a place that pushes the idea that culture begets culture. What’s your point?

“Yet here, Tim is effectively trying to push a history re-write that suggests that NOBODY ELSE could have come up with any of these variations on Dracula or the “blood sucker” myth.”

Ah, so you’re suggesting that someone else DID come up with it independently? That it wasn’t an influence of culture, a concept promoted by Techdirt? Where are you getting this from? Do you have even a SHRED of evidentiary indication that this was done independently? An example perhaps? No?

“So which one are you going with? Mike’s independent creation, or Tim’s “one source for everything” history re-write?”

To pretend that those two things are mutually exclusive is to have an absence of nuance, a character flaw in you that surprises me not. Things can be independently created. Things can also be derived from influence. Seriously, what is your point here, other than proving to everyone how mind-numbingly simple you are?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“To pretend that those two things are mutually exclusive is to have an absence of nuance, a character flaw in you that surprises me not. Things can be independently created. Things can also be derived from influence. Seriously, what is your point here, other than proving to everyone how mind-numbingly simple you are?”

You can start by keeping your insults to yourself. I haven’t called you a wanker, so why attack me?

Second, the two methods are exclusive of each other. Either it’s all influence based, or it’s all “independent”. Any mix of the two would kill the indepenent concept, because there would clearly be influence. If you think the independent is the way to go, it cannot happen honestly if there is influence.

Here’s the idea: Is Nosferatu truly independent, or is it just a variation on Dracula, influenced by the original work? Clearly they used Dracula in the earlier takes, so it isn’t an independent thing, it’s “influenced from” and almost a “copy plus some things” of Dracula.

So now, claiming that Nosferatu is somehow responsible for the Vampire thing and Dracula is not is misleading, because there was no independent invention here. Nosferatu is at best a branch of Dracula, and one that grew pretty darn close to the trunk.

It is on par with pointing at the latest Snoop Dogg missive and claiming it to the “start of rap music”. It’s just not that. It’s just another variation on a theme that goes back 30 years.

So, independent invention, or influenced based replication and extention – pick which one is right, and then explain why the other guy gets it all wrong.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Second, the two methods are exclusive of each other. Either it’s all influence based, or it’s all “independent”. Any mix of the two would kill the indepenent concept, because there would clearly be influence. If you think the independent is the way to go, it cannot happen honestly if there is influence.

Ok… Then how do you explain this?

While some reports are calling this “novel,” Boirum discovered, after he’d already invented this himself, that others had done so decades ago… but nothing much had come from it. There’s even a 1938 issue of Mechanics and Handicraft Magazine that featured a really similar device on its cover

Here’s the idea: Is Nosferatu truly independent, or is it just a variation on Dracula, influenced by the original work? Clearly they used Dracula in the earlier takes, so it isn’t an independent thing, it’s “influenced from” and almost a “copy plus some things” of Dracula.

Culture works by taking something from another time, figuring out what works and doesn’t work, then making it your own. This concept is not new at all. It’s been in movies such as Finding Forrester as well as folktales such as those of aquamen, werewolves, vampires, zombies, swamp things, or even Steamboat Willie… Er, Mickey Mouse. The point is, you still can’t create from a vacuum.

freak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Wow, even with my response right above you, you managed to say all that?

Here’s how independent invention & influence can exist in the same world:
You see a commercial that has, say a kid pretending to darth vader be startled by his dad activating the lights with his remote.
I see the same commercial.

Then, for the sake of this argument, we’re both thrown in solitary confinement at the same time both our studios have two different producers who want us to write a script each for two different movies, both of which involve a little kid playing make believe, only to be granted the powers he was pretending to have, but otherwise completely diverge.

Now, what is the likelihood, I wonder, that both of us will write almost the same scene about the kid discovering his powers? I’d rank it pretty highly; maybe 10%, 20%, maybe even 30-35% if the commercial was the last thing both of us watched before we were thrown in solitary.

Can you agree, at least, that we could possibly write the same scene?

Now, assuming we could, we were both influenced by that Mini Vader commercial, right? Were we influenced by each other at all? No, we were in solitary.

TL;DR: To have a world with both is not only perfectly consistent, but the only world in which we would see independent invention happen with any frequency.

Modplan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

So now, claiming that Nosferatu is somehow responsible for the Vampire thing and Dracula is not is misleading, because there was no independent invention here. Nosferatu is at best a branch of Dracula, and one that grew pretty darn close to the trunk.

Who claimed otherwise? Where did anyone say Nosferatu was entirely original? What the Hell are you on about?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

“You can start by keeping your insults to yourself. I haven’t called you a wanker, so why attack me?”

I’m attacking you because when I see someone acting like a disingenous fuckhead I’m compelled to label them as such. Debate is one thing. Just making up false terms in the argument is another and it pisses me off to think that some unsuspecting person would read what you’re writing and recognize it as anything other than the sanctimonious thought-poop that it is.

“Second, the two methods are exclusive of each other.”

Jesus Christ, no they’re not. If you are some how forced to see everything at the macro level, perhaps you could convince yourself of that, but when you actually look into details, such an assertion just becomes assanine.

“Either it’s all influence based, or it’s all “independent”. Any mix of the two would kill the indepenent concept, because there would clearly be influence.”

Are you pretending that anyone said Nosferatu WASN’T influenced by Dracula? Because no one said that. YOU’RE the one that brought up independent innovation as some kind of a pretend argument that modern dracula lore has nothing to do with Nosferatu. That’s the disengenious part. Particularly since you’re now trying to turn this into an all or nothing argument on whether independent innovation exists. In other words, your an obfuscating cretin who can’t mount an actual competitive argument for whatever the fuck point you’re trying to prove here, which is equally obfuscated because I’ve yet to read a single thing you’ve written that has an ounce of actual substance to it. Seriously, did your parents get a receipt with you? Because they should get their money back….

“Here’s the idea: Is Nosferatu truly independent, or is it just a variation on Dracula, influenced by the original work? Clearly they used Dracula in the earlier takes, so it isn’t an independent thing, it’s “influenced from” and almost a “copy plus some things” of Dracula.”

Sigh. Retarded. It’s clearly a dirivative work, based on Dracula in part, which was based on the legend of a Romanian lord, if memory serves. That’s crucial to the point EVERYONE HERE IS FUCKING TRYING TO MAKE, which is dirivative works can be valuable to culture, as exemplified by the way Nosferatu influenced today’s vampire lore. NO ONE IS ARGUING THIS! That you then go on to state that it’s dracula plus some other stuff only proves that you’re a hairy-palmed liar, or you’re not familiar with Nosferatu, or both.

“So now, claiming that Nosferatu is somehow responsible for the Vampire thing and Dracula is not is misleading, because there was no independent invention here.”

I like this sentence best, because you’ve packed so much wrong into it. First, no one is claiming Nosferatu is “responsible for this vampire thing and Dracula is not”, so that’s strike one. We’re saying have influenced current vampire culture. Your false dichotomy is a swing and a miss and attributing it to us when YOU’RE the only one making judgements about who is or is not doing the influencing is strike two. Finally, oh Adam Dunn of arguments, you then draw some wild conclusion that if there’s no independent innovation that somehow negates ability to influence future works, which may just be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen typed out in words. Strike three. Go back to the bench scratch your nuts or something.

“It is on par with pointing at the latest Snoop Dogg missive and claiming it to the “start of rap music”. It’s just not that. It’s just another variation on a theme that goes back 30 years.”

I have even less of an idea of what the fuck this means than the rest of your nonsense, which is REALLY saying something….

“So, independent invention, or influenced based replication and extention – pick which one is right, and then explain why the other guy gets it all wrong.”

No, because you’re a cock sandwich and I don’t argue using your false and wholly made up rules. I actually understand nuance and the ability for things to be different in different situations. Is there a microwave near you? Can you fit your head in it? Is there an on button?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

What can I say? You impress me only that you don’t seem to be able to do anything except insult. Perhaps you should log out of your account and join Marcus Carab (TS) in posting up fake attacks on Mike. It seems to be about your seemingly childish level.

I am not impressed that you know naughty words. Do you think it is impressive?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

“You saw NOTHING in my comments besides the insults? If so….get glasses I guess?”

I learned long ago that any block of text that starts out with a variation of “hey asshole!” usually gets ignored by the recipient. I got to “disingenous fuckhead” and figured you weren’t going to be serious, and gave up even trying to real the rest of your angry post.

You may or may not have said useful things. But they are lost in your angry bluster and foul language.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

” Perhaps you should log out of your account and join Marcus Carab (TS) in posting up fake attacks on Mike.”

So… insulting you is tantamount to logging in anonymously and attacking the owner of the site (like you do) in an attempt to mock the trolls? A strange deduction.

“It seems to be about your seemingly childish level.”

Hey stick around. If it’s not you, then another of your AC brethren usually loses his shit and start swearing at people some time at the weekend. At least there’s a point within DH’s profanity, and it’s somewhat deserved.

I mean, seriously, the article is about how “copyright infringement” led to a lasting legacy that’s still influencing profit-making ventures 90 years later. Instead of admitting that, you seem to spending the entire thread arguing that because you’re ignorant of film history, it didn’t happen… Why would profanity not be deserved by such ignorance?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“So which one are you going with? Mike’s independent creation, or Tim’s “one source for everything” history re-write?”

Well, first of all I don’t know where Mike comes into this since he didn’t write the article nor has taken part in the conversation!

Either way, you’re a fool if you think this is a binary choice. The nature of art is that you take influences from everything around you. As has already been mentioned, those who came after Nosferatu will have taken influences from that film, Universal’s film AND the original novel. However, Nosferatu did various unique things that have been directly referenced over the years.

Therefore, while vampire movies would have existed, their very nature would have been very, very different if Nosferatu had never been made. Probably for the poorer. That’s the point. Yes, people COULD have come up with these variations independently. But they didn’t. And the film that did only exists because of “piracy”.

Next up for discussion: did Stoker owe Romanians royalties for the local myths he repackaged as the basis for his novel?

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Techdirt is the place that claims over and over again “independent invention”

This is pretty much the opposite of what Techdirt claims.

The “independent invention” stuff is patent law, and it means – specifically – that two people can come up with the same solution to the same problem, without ever hearing of each other at all. That is not because people are “independent,” so much as that some solutions are obvious.

It would be akin to Stoker’s widow claiming that Bram came up with the idea of “people drinking blood.” That idea has been expressed (and, in some cultures, practiced) for centuries before Bram was ever born.

And a complete examination of vampire lore reveals how little Bram Stoker actually contributed. He got the idea of vampires from Emily Gerard. She, in turn, got her ideas from Transylvanian peasant folklore. Stoker’s vampire was named after, and based upon, the historical figure of Vlad the Implaer (a.k.a. Vlad Dracula).

Nosferatu was inspired in part by Stoker, but equally by those same Eastern European peasants that Stoker had “stolen” from. (The name Nosferatu, for example, was common in vampire lore, but is absent from Stoker’s novel.) But Murnau personally added many things that were not in either (in fact, Nosferatu’s appearance may have been inspired by then-popular German antisemitic cartoons in Der Sturmer). Both films heavily influenced the 1932 film Dracula. Many of the characteristics from the 1932 film (e.g. Dracula’s accent) were not in any other version, and are just as much a part of vampire folklore as anything that came before it.

Future versions of vampire lore – from Anne Rice novels, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Twilight – took, loosely, from all of those sources, yet added slight twists that were unique to the genre (but were, in turn, taken from other sources outside the genre).

This is the way culture works. None of it is entirely “independent,” in that it all is inspired by the culture that came before it.

And copyright locks all of that culture behind a paywall.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“That is the definition of “little known”.”

No, that’s the definition of “AC lives in a town full of ignorant rednecks and assumes everyone else does as well”.

besides, what does whether or not the average person has heard of it have to do with its historical legacy? I could possibly also ask who’s heard of Homer’s The Ilyad and get a similar response. That doesn’t diminish the amount of historical influence it’s had.

“What “lore” has been pulled from this movie and applied over time is much more likely attributable to film students and micro-niche fans seeing the film and figuring they can make off with the ideas without risk.”

You assume that if you want, you’re free to do so. It makes you look amazingly ignorant both of history and the subject at hand, but you’re free to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“What “lore” has been pulled from this movie and applied over time is much more likely attributable to film students and micro-niche fans seeing the film and figuring they can make off with the ideas without risk.”

Hammer Films’ Dracula series starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (and used as many elements from Nosferatu and Stoker’s novel) was done by film students and micro-niche fans?
Really?
They must’ve been in film school a helluva long time, since most of the writers and directors of that series had a number of films to their credits before doing the Dracula series!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

From the about page on his site:

Plagiarism Today (PT) is a site targeted at Webmasters and copyright holders regarding the issue of plagiarism online. Though it deals with many legal issues, in particular the DMCA and copyright law, it is not a legal blog and is, instead, a blog regarding a societal ill the effects may never be fully understood or comprehended.

The goals of this site are as follow:

To increase awareness, both among copyright holders and the media, regarding the prevalence of plagiarism on the Web,
To inform copyright holders of their rights on line and encourage them to protect those rights in a responsible manner,
To aid Webmasters and others who wish to reuse other works in doing so without fear of being dubbed a plagiarist,
To create a community where copyright holders can work together and support one another in dealing with this issue,
To give tools to copyright holders that enable them to more efficiently and more easily protect their rights,
To reduce the overall rate of plagiarism by shining a very bright light on what previously has been the Web?s very dark secret,
To bring about legal reforms that benefit all copyright holders, not just those with deep pockets, and create a fair balance between the rights of ownership for the copyright holder and society?s need to have a free and open culture.

You’re totally right, his intention is very very clear. You’re just not getting his intention.

PaulT (profile) says:

A classic example

Yep, this is one of those anecdotes that I bring up whenever people claim that overreaching copyright is either a good thing or positive if it’s there for too long. Also the story I bring up when people claim “pirates” are evil or that people utilising the art of others need to pay ad infinitum for their inspiration.

By circumventing the law and ignoring copyright restrictions on his ambition, Grau allowed F.W. Murnau to create one of the enduring classics of cinema. Its influence is everywhere, from the look being borrowed for Salem’s Lot’s head vampire to the Werner Herzog remake to the excellent, Oscar-nominated Shadow Of The Vampire (a fictionalised dramatisation of the making of the film). Even Tim Burton used the name of the actor Max Shreck for a character in Batman Begins as a tribute. You want a long list? Look at the number of films its reference in on the IMDB connections page.

It’s an incredible film, brilliantly shot and containing innovations and language used to this day. Yet, had the copyright maximalists been allowed to destroy or even prevent this work on behalf of a man already a decade in his grave, we may never have seen this. We would all be poorer for it, possibly including Stoker’s estate (who knows how many copies of Dracula were sold on the back of this and the other movies it inspired?).

This is one reason why I’m opposed to the IP maximalists here. Who knows what we’re missing out on because they want corporations to collect the pensions of past successes?

pjcamp (profile) says:

Great moments in uncreative derivative works

Add to the list as needed:

James Joyce: Ulysses

Josquin des Prez: Missa Malheur me bat, Missa Mater Patris, and Missa Fortuna desperata

Thomas Malory: Le Morte d’Arthur

William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Coriolanus, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Cymbeline, All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Winter’s Tale, King John, Richard II, Henry Iv, Henry V, Henry VI, Henry VIII

Johannes Brahms: Variations on a Theme from Haydn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concertos opus 297

Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony 15

Franz Schubert: C Minor Sonata, A Major Sonata and B flat Sonata

I’m bored at this point. Someone else pick it up from here.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

Crap, you could crash this site just by posting all the indirect Shakespeare adaptations!

I’ll just mention Forbidden Planet and Theatre Of Blood.

As for other works, I’d hate to think how many movies, plays and other things were directly or indirectly inspired by just 5 books:

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
Gaston Leroux – The Phantom of The Opera
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes
Robert Louis Stevenson – The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
Aleandre Dumas – The Three Musketeers

Remember, according to the trolls, every work based even tangentially on these books without paying a fee should not exist because they were made by “freetards”!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

As a child of the 80s, I challenge you to dismiss Dogtanian! Loved that when I was a kid…

Anyway, I’m thinking more inspired by than directly adapted in that case of that story. You can trace a lot of themes and story arcs back to that, even if they’re not direct adaptations. But, I’ll happily substitute it for the Grimm’s works.

freak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Great moments in uncreative derivative works

Uh, I would hope you didn’t take me seriously at all :p

There have definitely been many, many movies based on the book, and it’s kinda giggle-worthy that any of us think any one particular movie is *the* Three Musketeers when in fact, the book is.

Although, if any movie is *the* Three Musketeers movie, it’s Richard Lesters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

“Huh? There was only one movie based on The Three Musketeers, and Richard Lester directed it.”

There have been two dozen Three Musketeers movies (including the current one)
A movie serial and series of b-movies resetting the characters in the Old West. (A young John Wayne starred in the earliest ones)
Several live action tv series.
American AND Japanese animated tv series.

bjupton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Great moments in uncreative derivative works

And to be clear, I don’t have a problem with that. He certainly transformed it to a different medium, eh?

What I don’t like his how is company won’t let anyone else touch those sorts of things. Intellectually and morally bankrupt are some terms I might use to describe that behavior.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

Yep, that was kind of my point. Theater Of Blood is a glorious black comedy with Vincent Price killing critics in the manner of the plays they trashed. Thus, the film itself could not exist without “ripping off” the plays themselves…

I’ll accept your further suggestion though, although as I said we could probably be here all week listing more films πŸ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

“Remember, according to the trolls, every work based even tangentially on these books without paying a fee should not exist because they were made by “freetards”!”

Paul, all I can say is playing the bizarre absolute game makes you look bad. But keep it up, it’s amusing to watch you spew.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

“Paul, all I can say is playing the bizarre absolute game makes you look bad. But keep it up, it’s amusing to watch you spew.”

So… what “game” am I playing? Be specific.

The sentence you quoted was mocking the usual response you ACs give me. If I was wrong, please detail how you actually believe that works based on other works should not be subject to royalty and/or licence payments no matter how old they are…

Oh, and yet again I have to note that you extracted a single sentence and attacked that rather than address the many points I raised. Typical.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

Indeed. I love Tarantino, but I was actually bored the first time I saw Kill Bill 1 (though I’ve learned to appreciate it since). I just spent the whole film going “Shogun Assassin… Lady Snowblood. ..)

Then again, I was also the person going “yawn… seen this before” during Crouching Tiger. Maybe I just saw too many Eastern films as a kid?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Great moments in uncreative derivative works

His list is not works that created many drivatives, but were in fact, dirived from something else, thus lacking ‘creativitiy’ and ‘originality’, IE: Not works of art. For example….

Wagner : Ring of the Nibelung – Shameless rip of V?lsunga saga which provided absolutly nothing original or inspired.

Brother’s Grimm: Thier entire book is a shamless retelling of stories, which holds absolutly no value since all the stories were told before.

Disney’s Peter Pan, Pinoccio, Cinderella, Snow White, Tangled, Jungle Book (EXPECIALLY Jungle Book since they were denied the use of the stories until it lapsed into the Public Domain, in which they struck with an evil viper like jaw), and so on: Completely unoriginal hack jobs. They add NOTHING of value, they are purely boring, horrible dirivitive stories with no soul or creativity. Disney STOLE ideas, and provided of no value! Pinoccio’s consiouse as a cricket? NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED! Compelete load that that image is in the public mind, the story should never have been stolen and infringed upon. Disney’s animated movies are not works of arts, they are grandscale theft… Right?

anonymous says:

come on guys. you now the rules. it’s perfectly ok for any of the entertainment industries to deceive, cheat, lie and infringe in order to make money for themselves; in order to progress ‘for the greater good’ (of the execs!)! it’s when things are turned around and could be for ‘the greater good’ of others is when the denials, the excuses, the law suits etc all start flooding out! the ‘one rule for us, another for you’ rears it’s ugly head!

Ed C. says:

Re: Re:

Exactly! To them, it’s almost always “inspiration”–even the wholesale lifting of lines from other works or photographs on canvas. But for everyone else that’s not an “insider”, any amount of “inspiration” is denounced as “derivation” and charged the same as a wholesale copy. In other words, why does the RIAA push sampling as infringement on the same level as bittorrenting the entire track? Copyright was supposed to only protect the commercial viability of the original, and only one of those actions infringes upon that.

Anonymous Coward says:

So doesn’t this example show that strong copyright, if properly limited in scope, can actually drive innovation by forcing follow-on creators to invent differences – in other words, to be creative? If Dracula had been a public domain work in Germany, Grau’s film would have been called “Dracula” and probably would, in fact, be known mainly to film students and aficionados of silent film. Because the copyright law forced Grau to innovate, though, “Nosferatu” became a cultural wellspring of new ideas. (Though admittedly this example also shows that an expansive interpretation of the scope of copyright to encompass too many derivative works can be harmful.)

Beta (profile) says:

Where'd you get that idea?

“The biggest change was the ending of the movie. In Nosferatu, Count Orlok is burned up by the sunlight.”

This is a tribute to how movies infiltrate our thoughts. If I remember correctly, Orlok doesn’t burn in the sunlight at all, he just dies an verminous, undignified death. Now (thanks to Hammer’s films, I guess) the idea of a vampire burning in sunlight has soaked so deeply into our mental carpet that Orlok’s death scene is surprising.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where'd you get that idea?

In the 1979 remake by Werner Herzog, Dracula (because copyright had expired, Herzog used “Dracula” rather than “Orloc”) crumples into a fetal position when exposed to sunlight, twiches, and dies, but DOESN’T burn up.

In the original 1922 flick, Orloc burns up in a double-exposed fade-out with some superimposed smoke.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Where'd you get that idea?

“If I remember correctly, Orlok doesn’t burn in the sunlight at all, he just dies an verminous, undignified death.”

Not exactly. The famous sequence has him about to feed, but he looks up into the window as the sun starts to appear over the horizon. He arches back, and disappears as the sunlight hits him.

It’s not the protracted sequence that Hammer made with us seeing him slowly fall apart, but it’s definitely the sunlight that kills him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2ZJxCghKDk

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Where'd you get that idea?

The famous sequence has him about to feed, but he looks up into the window as the sun starts to appear over the horizon. He arches back, and disappears as the sunlight hits him.

It’s actually even more creepy than that.

It was not the sunlight that killed him. Roger Ebert phrases it best: “Ellen Hutter learns that the only way to stop a vampire is for a good woman to distract him so that he stays out past the first cock’s crow.” It wasn’t sunlight that destroyed him, it was spending the night with a “pure” woman.

I would also like to point out that Bram Stoker “ripped off” his vampire ideas from Emily Gerard… who in turn “ripped off” Transylvanian peasant folklore. (You didn’t think the word “Nosferatu” was pulled out of thin air, do you?)

Bram Stoker no more “owns” vampire lore than Murnau… which is to say, neither owns it. If anyone does, it’s the European peasantry.

Funny how nobody in history ever suggested they should get royalties.

Anonymous Coward says:

The guy who wrote that “created in a vacuum” comment…hopefully he/she is reading this article. Well, let me just say something to you.
You mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit as an example of an original work i.e. in your worldview, it wasn’t influenced by anybody else.
Well, it became clear to me upon reading that comment that you have never read classical literature. Specifically, Beowulf. He fought a dragon, who rested on top of a pile of treasure, who immediately knew that a single cup had been stolen. This dragon then went on a rampage, burning everything in revenge.
Sound familiar? It should, because Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit is a carbon copy of Beowulf’s dragon.
What about the Elves? Tolkien wasn’t the first person to write about Elves, as woodland people. Or Hobbits i.e. if I may use the term, midgets or short people. Ditto for dwarves. Gandalf was based on Merlin i.e. the aged magician.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah…in this article, you should see the words “created in a vacuum” in blue, indicating its a link. That link is to a comment about a guy who said that if you want to improve the story of The Hobbit, then if you can’t reach an agreement with his estate, tough sh*t.
Whereas I pointed out how you can call Hobbit an improvement over Beowulf, because both feature the exact same dragon, which is a major plot point in both stories. Did Tolkien have to reach an agreement with the heirs of whoever wrote Beowulf? No! So why should I have to reach an agreement with Tolkien’s heirs?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What a splendidly typical Techdirt thread, discussing "vampires".

Typical? Discussing vampires? Do you see vampires whenever you come on threads to troll? I can’t fathom any other reason why you’d experience such a high frequency of vampires to label their appearance as “typical”.

You could either need glasses, or you could just, well, suck. A lot.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: What a splendidly typical Techdirt thread, discussing "vampires".

“Stupid premise: copyright bad because almost prevented a vampire movie from being made.”

…which went on to become one of the most influential horror movies of all time and is still reference directly or indirectly to this day by other money-making ventures.

Funny how you would think this is a good thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if anyone had ever tallied up all the jobs and income this particular piece of ‘copyright infringement’ has created over the years. Especially given the fairly high possibility that the entire vampire ‘culture’ (including all the associated aspects ranging from role-playing games to Halloween costumes) would never have come about without the popularity introduced by the leaked movie. For those who will argue that it would have happened anyway I will point out that Dracula’s popularity in Europe had already begun to fade when the pirated movie began to circulate in America, where it caused a revolution of creativity which led to the creation of the whole whimsical industry.

Butcherer79 (profile) says:

Nice post, but with nothing new to add I’ll just paste the monologue from the Godsmack song – Vampires; very hallowe’en-y:

Few creatures of the night have captured our imagination like Vampires
What explains our induring fasination with Vampires?
What is it about the vampire myth that explains our interest?
Is it the overtones of sexual lust, power, control?
Or is it a fasination with the immortality of the undead?
And what dark and hidden part of our Psyche are aroused and captivated by the legends of the undead?
The mystery of the undead will continue to fasinate the living

Copyright, it's a job says:

Funniest

The funniest thing about all of this is that Bram Stoker ripped key characters like Van Helsing and more importantly the expression of the story being written through diary entries and correspondence from Sheridan Le Fanu’s stories in “In a Glass Darkly” in particular the story ‘Carmilla’.

If you haven’t read it – you should. You will not miss the striking similarities.

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