I would like to know when "Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer" will be in the public domain.
Until 12/31/2034 as to the original print version. Likely until 2059 as to the 1964 animated TV version. You have a misconception. A work for hire like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer lasts 95 years from first publication, which was 1939. Montgomery Ward's owned the rights, since Bob May was an employee, a copywriter, but returned the rights to May in 1947. May sold the rights which are now owned by the Rudolph Company, L.P.
I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
The author, when making the work of authorship, is creating copyright. The Author's interest is 70 years plus the life of the Author. The Author can assign, or license or sell the copyright. An intellectual Property attorney can research and give you advice.
My comments have been made without discussion. An attorney client relationship has not been established. There may be conflicts which prohibit my providing you with specific legal guidance. Any contact with you beyond these few general words will start with a disclosure of opposing parties so that a conflict check can be made. You should discuss with an attorney.
The typical answer is that copyright term is the life of the author plus seventy years. But there are situations and nuances that change the answer, such as if the work was a "work made for hire." Rudolph appears to date back to a 1939 book, and the author passed in 1976. Assuming that the copyright notices and renewals were handled properly, it will not pass into the public domain soon whether or not it was a work made for hire.
I have included a link below that may be helpful. If you plan to make copies or derivative works of a specific work, you should contact an attorney to verify that the work is in the public domain.
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