Are Folktales in the public domain?

I wish to include a retelling of a folktale in the opening of my WIP, this one to be specific, but couldn’t find any information about whether it, or folktales in general, were in the public domain?

Any thoughts?

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Yup :slight_smile: Mythos, folktales and everything else older than dirt are all in public domain. Grimm’s Fairy Tales even come with illustrations.
Only problems you’d come across here is if you wanted to use a specific retelling, for example Disney’s Cindirella.


I thought it would be something like that. I guess choosing a folktale that wasn’t bound by U.S law made it a bit confusing on the domain issues. Thanks for the help! :smiling_face:

No folktale is “bound by U.S. law.” The details of a specific retelling might certainly be, but the story itself isn’t. The origins of folklore - even contemporary folklore such as urban legends - are difficult or impossible to trace, so there’s no creator (or creator’s estate) whose rights the law would be able to protect.

Also, except for extremely rare cases where a perpetual copyright is granted, you don’t have to worry about anything you want to use that dates back before the twentieth century. Even the longest-lasting copyright in the world expires a hundred years after the death of the author. So any story that was around in 1741 is fair game, whether it’s folklore or not.


Yep, I just want to provide a brief retelling for context reasons, of the original story. Not, for example, retelling the story of The Ring, which was apparently inspired by Okiku.

But honestly, I should’ve guessed that something that’s over a century old was probably public domain. :upside_down_face:

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It depends.

See other threads on copyright on the forum. Basically if it’s an old folktale and you’re using the original source material, you’re probably in the clear. BUT if you’re using someone else’s version of it that is more modern to base your game on, then you are in danger of violating copyright.

Case in point- Christensen’s little mermaid vs Disney’s.


You mean Hans Christian Andersen’s, I presume.


Yep, running on close to no sleep today :stuck_out_tongue:

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you can just say once upon a time and make up something :rofl: :joy: :joy: :joy:

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