Re: Public Domain
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 17:16:18 -0500 (EST)

Dear Anne,

Just to put my two cents in on Public Domain. Public Domain in the US is
different than public domain in Canada and elsewhere in the world -- there
are attempts to unify the world on copyright issues and further protect
creative work in the age of the internet and digital distribution, but it
remains somewhat confusing. Basically, films that are public domain in the
film's country of origin (for example, The Gold Rush) is considered public
domain for the entire world. Foreign films, such as Grand Illusion and
Metropolis that are public domain in the US (the most frequent case, because
of our country's previous arcane copyright laws and the distributors' lack of
propriety interest beyond their immediate distribution), aren't necessarily
public domain in Canada. In these cases, they're not. Nosferatu and Caligari,
I believe are public domain (though I haven't checked lately), because their
copyrights have lapsed in Germany. In most of the Commonwealth countries,
copyright is an extremely difficult thing to prove, but the legal assumption
is that the films are copyrighted unless proven otherwise.

By the way, many of the major US companies also renewed their copyrights on
silent films and with the GATT treaty allowing older foreign films to be
registered, there are many more silent films protected than not.

Dennis Doros
Milestone Film & Video
275 West 96th Street, Suite 28C
New York, NY 10025
Phone: (212) 865-7449
Fax: (212) 222-8952

Now, that said, once they are public domain in a country, any and all use is
permissible under the law. Good luck!