The questions asks an attorney at AVVO to give an opinion upon which the Asker can rely. There are no attorney client relationships formed on AVVO. The Asker needs to contact an Intellectual Property attorney.
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There are too many unknowns for a practical response. Please get some legal representation.
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There is no one answer.
The Rudolph reindeer fictional character first appeared in a booklet in 1939, the cover of which showed an image of Rudolph [visit the link below]. Assuming all the copyright formalities then in effect were satisfied and the copyright timely renewed [which are likely good assumptions] the copyright in the Rudolph character and in that particular image will expire in 2034 [95 years after first publication of this "work for hire" work].
The copyright in any subsequent work containing Rudolph will include in scope any new material added to the original character and the original drawing and will expire 95 years after each was published. In short, while the original character and the original drawing will be in our public domain in 2034 the PARTICULAR versions of Rudolph created after 1939 will still be protected by copyright.
Speak with your own copyright attorney. The above simply assumes all the required copyright formalities and renewals were satisfied -- which may not be true. Your own attorney can also help you license the rights to Rudolph via Character Arts, LLC [visit the second link below]. Good luck.
The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.
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