In 1929 James Barrie donated all his revenues from Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London. After Barrie died in 1937, the copyright became a major source of revenue for the hospital. Normally in the United Kingdom a copyright lasts until 50 years after the author’s death, so Peter Pan entered the public domain at the end of 1987. But in 1988 the Labour government had added a special amendment to the law governing intellectual property:
The provisions of Schedule 6 have effect for conferring on trustees for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London, a right to a royalty in respect of the public performance, commercial publication, broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programme service of the play ‘Peter Pan’ by Sir James Matthew Barrie, or of any adaptation of that work, notwithstanding that copyright in the work expired on 31 December 1987.
So the boy who never grows up has a copyright that will never grow old – according to UK law, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children has a copyright which extends perpetually from 1988 onwards.
February 14th 1852: Great Ormond Street hospital founded
On this day in 1852, the Great Ormond Street Hopsital for Sick Children opened in London. In the mid-nineteenth century, despite high child mortality rates, there was little professional medical help available for children, with many parents opting to care for their children themselves. Dr. Charles West identified this problem, and drew attention to childhood diseases in a series of lectures. It was Dr. West who fought for the opening of Great Ormond Street, the first hospital of its kind in the UK. When the hospital first opened its doors, it had only ten beds, and was led by the matron Frances Willey. Great Ormond Street struggled financially in its first years, but in 1858 it was saved when famed author Charles Dickens gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol to raise money for the hospital. With Dickens’s money, the hospital could expand and increase its bed capacity to 75. In the years that followed, Great Ormond Street further expanded and attracted notable patrons who wanted to support its work. Most famously, in 1929 the author J.M. Barrie donated the copyright to his creation Peter Pan to the hospital, which has provided the hospital with a steady income. Great Ormond Street is a British institution, and continues to have a worldwide reputation for patient care.