zorro-imageThere is a saying, a very old saying: when the pupil is ready, the master will appear. The public is ready, so will the Masked Avenger appear? Could he finally be revealed and put into the public domain? A lawsuit is in the works to free Zorro from the ties it has to Zorro Productions Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The suit was originally brought in Washington, but has since fought its way back to sunny California.

Robert Cabell, publisher of the musical, “Z- The Musical of Zorro,” is suing John Gertz, owner of ZPI over a threat of taking away Cabell’s musical licensing in Germany. In his 2013 action, Cabell argues the masked man was not in the public domain and that ZPI’s trademark on the character should be canceled. Why didn’t this suit initially survive? Because U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle ruled that the avenger wasn’t at home in Washington. The judge since has reversed course, allowed the case to be revived, and said that courts in California probably had jurisdiction since ZPI’s principle place of business is Berkeley.

Now that Zorro is being fought over in California, there’s a possibility that Gertz will try to dismiss the case, citing the statue of limitations. But if Sherlock Holmes is free for public use, why is this war over Zorro still an issue? The copyright had expired, and, as Judge Richard Posner stated in writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit: “When a story falls into the public domain, story elements become fair game.”