‘The Great Gatsby’ Copyright Expires This Year

Published on January 23, 2020

Next year, anyone and their grandpa could make a movie based on “The Great Gatsby.” The novel’s copyright expires in less than twelve months. If anyone has an interest in publishing the book, writing a musical based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic story, or do a spin off or parody of some kind, they’re free to do so. 

The Fitzgeralds Don’t Mind

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great-granddaughter and the trustee of his literary estate, Blake Hazard, has no complaints. The Fitzgerald family has protected the integrity of the book for a long time now, but in an interview with USA Today, she expressed her excitement in the change:

We’re just very grateful to have had it under copyright, not just for the rather obvious benefits, but to try and safeguard the text, to guide certain projects and try to avoid unfortunate ones. We’re now looking to a new period and trying to view it with enthusiasm, knowing some exciting things may come.

Surely, good and bad will come with the rights no longer protected, but kudos to Hazard for remaining optimistic about the future of her great-grandfather’s story. She did a remarkable job preserving the book’s legacy for all these years. Even signing off on the 3D adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t that bad of an idea, as it likely introduced more teens to the story. It was a bad adaptation, yes, but entertaining spectacle on its own.

The History of Great Gatsby 

Only after Fitzgerald’s death did his masterpiece catch the attention of America and the rest of the world. 25,000 copies of the classic were sold when Fitzgerald was alive, but over 30 million have sold since his death. 500,000 are sold each year in the United States alone. Scribner, now owned by Simon & Schuster, published the book in 1925. Sales will drop significantly when the copyright expires, but Simon & Schuster still want to milk every dime they can out of Fitzgerald’s story. 

A Great Gatsby Comic Book!

This June, believe it not, they’re releasing a graphic novel based on “The Great Gatsby.” Not the first time a classic book has received the comic book treatment, but still, who in the world is waiting on a Great Gatsby comic? Then again, it’s got some serious talent working on it. Aya Morton did the illustrations, and her work is beautiful and elegant. It’s worth checking out. Her style seems appropriate for Gatsby. Fred Fordham, the man behind the “To Kill a Mockingbird” graphic novel, adapted the text.

Future Interpretations 

We’ve yet to see a definitive adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Both Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio were two American movie stars perfect for the title role, but the movies around them? Not as spectacular as their performances or the book. There will always be room for more interpretations of “The Great Gatsby,” especially as we await the defining adaptation. As for Hazard, she’s a fan of both Hollywood productions based on “The Great Gatsby,” but she one day wants to see a new, more modern and inclusive interpretation: 

I would love to see an inclusive adaptation of ‘Gatsby,’ with a diverse cast. Though the story is set in a very specific time and place, it seems to me that a retelling of this great American story could and should reflect a more diverse America.

The story of the American dream will never grow old and neither will author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fluid prose. It’s timeless, as history has proven. The dreams, ambitions, and heartache of Jay Gatsby will always resonate. We’ve yet to see Gatsby or Nick Carraway’s inner-life and voices accurately captured on film, but next year once that copyright expires, maybe we finally will.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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