List of 1980s Public Domain films

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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List of 1980s Public Domain films

PostWed Aug 16, 2017 7:14 pm

I wouldn't have imagined that so many films from the 1980s are Pub.Domain or at least according to filmchest. Anybody know how legit it is. I consider the 1980s quite recent so it's kind of odd seeing Pub.Domain with 1980s. It's too soon isn't it? ... ary/1980s/

And the website lists Pub.Domain films going back in time by decade all the way to the silent years.

Jay Salsberg

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Re: List of 1980s Public Domain films

PostThu Aug 17, 2017 1:12 pm

The main reason these 1970s/1980s films are in the public domain is because the filmmakers/distributers failed to follow the rules when initially registering their copyrights. As a result, their films were never "officially" copyrighted. Sometimes it takes decades before someone figures that out.


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Re: List of 1980s Public Domain films

PostThu Aug 17, 2017 2:07 pm

Here's Wikipedia's take on it, which (if accurate) had a couple details that were news to me:

"For works first published on or after March 1, 1989, use of the copyright notice is optional. Before March 1, 1989, the use of the notice was mandatory on all published works. Omitting the notice on any work first published from January 1, 1978 to February 28, 1989 could have resulted in the loss of copyright protection if corrective steps were not taken within a certain amount of time. Works published before January 1, 1978, are governed by the 1909 Copyright Act. Under that law, if a work was published under the copyright owner’s authority without a proper notice of copyright, all copyright protection for that work was permanently lost in the United States."

My understanding is that the Berne Convention in 1989 did away with the requirement of a copyright notice.

There was also a period of time where failure to renew copyright meant the work passed into the public domain, but because of the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992, that only seems to affect works published before 1964 (i.e. copyrighted 1963 or earlier, and not renewed in 1991):

"For works that received their copyright before 1978, a renewal had to be filed in the work's 28th year with the Copyright Office for its term of protection to be extended. The need for renewal was eliminated by the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992, but works that had already entered the public domain by non-renewal did not regain copyright protection. Therefore, works published before 1964 that were not renewed are in the public domain."

BTW one of the really interesting things coming up lately is the copyright status of unpublished works which -- at least in the EU -- appears to lapse after 50 years. A lot of bands are hurriedly releasing their archives in some form to ensure they retain copyright, which is all to the good!

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