Dueling Pans

Before J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, died, he assigned the rights to his most famous creation to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. As a children’s hospital in London, the place happily accepted the gift, and the British government made a special exception to the copyright term for the book, extending it forever. How other countries and publishers choose to respect this exception gets a bit strange. The book fell out of copyright in the US for a few years and now is supposedly back in, but it’s hard to tell who to believe without an army of intellectual property lawyers at your side.

In 2004, Hyperion Books, a division of Disney, published Peter and the Starcatchers, a prequel to Peter Pan, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. As a longtime Pan fan (see my free Neverland game for proof), I couldn’t resist picking it up. It’s great fun so far, although I’m not quite finished with it yet.

When the hospital learned of the book—for which it would see no royalties for sale in the US—the officials there weren’t too happy. They started a search for an author to write an officially sanctioned sequel to Peter Pan, and they chose Geraldine McCaughrean. They’re going to announce the title tomorrow.

While Disney and the hospital may be at odds here, it’s a great time to be a fan of Pan.