Saturday, 28 January 2012

Dracula fan's Facebook page swiped

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the internets, seems like the ghost of SOPA's still lingering about. Bertena Varney published a highly disturbing article today: 'Universal Studios claim Dracula fan's Facebook page'. What. The. Hell?!

The owner of the page is—full disclosure—a friend of mine, Charles E. Butler. He wrote The romance of Dracula: a personal journey of the Count on celluloid (2011). The article reveals that on January 20th, Facebook sent him the following message:

You may have noticed that you're no longer an admin of one of the Facebook Pages you used to manage. The Page was claimed by someone who proved that they're authorized to represent it.       

The Facebook Team
Short, sweet and sucky. Varney adds, 'He then went to visit the website and it was under another admin that he found later was Univerisal Studios, the owner of the orginal Dracula movies.' Now, I don't know what 'proof' they offered—and neither does Butler, because five emails to 'The Facebook Team' have gone unanswered.

Proof is the key here, because even though Universal made the first (official)1 Dracula movies after negotiations with Bram Stoker's widow, Florence Balcombe Stoker, they do not own Stoker's work or derivatives from it—unless, of course, it exploits their Dracula franchise, namely Dracula (1931), Dracula's daughter (1936), Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948), etc. 

As respected Dracula scholar, David J. Skal notes, 'due to a loophole in copyright law, Dracula was – and always had been – in the public domain in the United States. Although Stoker had been issued a copyright certificate in 1897, and his widow a renewed certificate in the 1920s, Stoker had never complied with the requirement that two copies of the work be deposited with the American copyright office.'2 Therefore, Universal simply has no right to claim 'Dracula' from someone else.

Add your signature to a petition asking Universal to give Butler's page back. I've signed it; hope you do, too. Stand up for the 'little guy'!

1. F.W. Murnau's well-known Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) was an unauthorised rip-off.

2. DJ Skal, Hollywood gothic: the tangled web of Dracula from novel to stage to screen, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1990, p. 180.

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