<< Our Media Sales dept (no longer a part of our operation) is telling us
any works produced and copyrighted prior to 1963 and that were not renewed
in their 28th year will automatically go into public domain??? Did we miss
something? We were under the impression from Section 302 that copyright
was for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Becky Carolus >>
Jessica is correct on the author plus 70 years, of course. Any film currently
under copyright is for ninety years after publication.
On the other matters
1) Public domain is for American films only. All foreign films are in
copyright based on the GATT agreement that came into effect a few years ago.
2) Any film that was already in copyright in 1976 (I believe that was the
year) became available for automatic renewal due to changes in the law.
3) Based on current legal rulings, some films ("It's a Wonderful Life" being
the most famous case) previously thought to be in the public domain are now
protected by their underlying rights such as the story it was based on, the
original music composed for the film, et cetera.
4) Since copyright for films is now 90 years after publication. So the only
"blanket" rule you can use for copyright is that any film published before
1923 is public domain. (Excepting if a company like Kino or Milestone creates
a new version with new tints, music and/or editing and that version is under
Yes, there are many public domain films, but it's complicated and films can
only only be judged public domain on a case by case basis. You can also go to
the Library of Congress and download a copy of the US Copyright laws.
For copyright assistance we use our close friend Eli Savada or even closer,
our brother-in-law, David Pierce. They do copyright searches for many
companies and individuals.
Milestone Film & Video
PO Box 128
Harrington Park, NJ 07640-0128
Phone: (201) 767-3117 or (800) 603-1104
Fax: (201) 767-3035