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CORPORATE red tape has strangled the Hunter's friends of Thomas the Tank Engine, according to train buff Graham Black.
Richmond Vale Railway Museum representatives have to take the colourful plywood storybook faces off their engines and cancel annual Friends of Thomas open days because they cannot meet copyright demands.
Thomas, who was created by English clergyman Wilbert Awdry in 1946, has become a multimillion-dollar global business owned by a British company that controls the original book series, television, film, toy and merchandising rights.
Richmond Vale spokesman Mr Black said extraordinary copyright requirements included the use of specially made faces for the museum's engines, strict dress codes for volunteers during Thomas events, restrictions on what characters, such as the Fat Controller, could say and do plus a 15 per cent royalty payment on gross event income.
"The copyright situation is now completely unreasonable; the demands have become impossible for a voluntary, non-profit organisation like ours to meet," Mr Black said.
"This is the end of our efforts to comply with copyright requirements, which began more than 10 years ago, and enabled us to run seven Thomas events in the eight years to last year.
"The real tragedy is that there is a lot of lost enjoyment for children and that flows on to reduce the interest in preserving steam trains."
Mr Black said he had sent hundreds of letters, faxes, emails and phone calls to meet ever-changing copyright demands.
"Each year the contracts got bigger and bigger, with the last one topping 50 pages and including 12 pages on the correct clothes, actions and responses that had to be made if we had someone playing the part of the Fat Controller," Mr Black said.
"Children who come to Richmond Vale aren't concerned whether our Fat Controller had a moustache or his hair was a little longer than the book character, they enjoyed the overall experience with the trains, but that has been lost on some people who can't seem to see past making a financial profit."
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