The copyright status of the Lovecraft's stories is important in a variety of contexts. In the century since Lovecraft's death, his characters and worlds found new expression in a variety of forms. Publishing Lovecraft pastiches is a popular activity among horror and weird fiction authors. Much of this writing is amateur in nature, but producing Lovecraft derivatives provided a living to more than a few professional authors, including August Derleth. Lovecraft's fiction also found expression in new kinds of media. During the 1980s and early 1990s, songs containing Lovecraft references and themes were not uncommon among musicians producing hard rock and heavy metal. Since the 1960s, filmmakers produced more than ten direct Lovecraft film adaptations and Lovecraft's fiction found expression in television shows ranging from late night cable horror series to Saturday morning cartoons. Lovecraft adaptations have also been successful in interactive contexts. At least seven Lovecraft-derived video games have been produced since the 1980s. The success of recent releases, such as "Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem" and "The Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth", created new audiences for Lovecraft's fiction. In non-electronic contexts, Lovecraft role-playing games in the mold of "Dungeons and Dragons" and "Magic: The Gathering" met with similar success.
Each of these examples is a new publication of original Lovecraft material combined with new content. The copyright status of the original Lovecraft work becomes important because without the consent of a copyright holder, these activities may result in copyright infringement suits with civil and potential criminal penalties. Some of these republishers mitigated their risks by forming business arrangements with purported copyright holders. Others published without permission, confident that purported copyright holders could not actually produce the evidence to support their claims.
In addition to Lovecraft's works being adapted into new media, there is significant interest in simply republishing Lovecraft's works verbatim in collected volumes and compilations. Lovecraft published the majority of his work in magazines that no longer survive in their original form, so new readers discovered Lovecraft through more recent book or online republications. Some of these republishers cooperated with purported copyright holders while others simply published on the assumption that a court would find that Lovecraft's work was part of the public domain. Thus a 2001 Science Fiction Book Club compilation (The Black Seas of Infinity) sought permission from Arkham House Publishers, while a 2003 Ecco Press collection assembled by Joyce Carol Oates did not.
This situation only becomes more complex for online publishers as they not only have to deal with the central question of which works are copyrighted, but of how this question and its answer varies by jurisdiction. The Australian Project Gutenberg is completely confident in its online republication of Lovecraft, while the American Project Gutenberg is more circumspect and has thus far declined to add Lovecraft to their online offerings.