Copyright question for you experts you

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Mike Gebert

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Copyright question for you experts you

PostThu Jul 31, 2008 12:30 pm

Hey, I'm working on a personal video project that has to do with old-timey Texas, and I want to use a little bit of 20s or 30s country music. And because of the small chance of commercial application for what I'm doing, I'd just as soon use something public domain, which I have to think a lot of that kind of music found on Proper boxes and the like is.

The question is, how do I determine that? I really have no idea how you verify such a thing. Any tips from our resident folks who deal with copyright on a regular basis?
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Harold Aherne

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Re: Copyright question for you experts you

PostThu Jul 31, 2008 1:27 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:Hey, I'm working on a personal video project that has to do with old-timey Texas, and I want to use a little bit of 20s or 30s country music. And because of the small chance of commercial application for what I'm doing, I'd just as soon use something public domain, which I have to think a lot of that kind of music found on Proper boxes and the like is.

The question is, how do I determine that? I really have no idea how you verify such a thing. Any tips from our resident folks who deal with copyright on a regular basis?


Oh my. Sound recording copyright is a very big can of worms, much more so than other media. The reason: sound recordings couldn't actually be *registered* for copyright until February 1972. Before that point, recordings were *understood* to be protected via common law or a complex web of state laws. And thanks to every collector's best pal Sonny Bono all pre-1972 American recordings (at least) are under copyright protection until 2067. Doesn't matter if it's a Columbia cylinder from 1894 or a Carole King album from 1971. [Of course, there are small companies from the 20s and 30s, like Emerson, Grey Gull, Arto, and Hit of the Week that almost certainly have no successor corporation and no one who would bother to sue, but those labels probably don't have much material that you're looking for.]

In other countries the situation is better. Canada has a limit of 50 years of copyright protection for sound recordings; the EU had a 50 year limit until recently, but thankfully material that's already PD won't be retroactively protected AFAIK. Here's some useful data.

You could always take a chance and cross your fingers your video won't be noticed, but the big companies have come down on some reissue labels like Naxos and some of their product is now available only in Europe and Canada (and everywhere else that has sane copyright laws!)

-Harold
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comedyfilm

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Re: Copyright question for you experts you

PostSun Oct 12, 2008 11:19 am

Harold Aherne wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:And thanks to every collector's best pal Sonny Bono all pre-1972 American recordings (at least) are under copyright protection until 2067. Doesn't matter if it's a Columbia cylinder from 1894 or a Carole King album from 1971.


Hmmm. I thought any American property that was pre-1923 was public-domain in the United States. Does that apply to verything, or just film?

God Bless --
PAUL
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Harold Aherne

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Re: Copyright question for you experts you

PostSun Oct 12, 2008 12:21 pm

comedyfilm wrote:Hmmm. I thought any American property that was pre-1923 was public-domain in the United States. Does that apply to verything, or just film?

God Bless --
PAUL


The pre-1923 rule, as I understand it, applies to properties that were *federally* registered for copyright. Books, plays, movies, and even record-label designs were eligible for federal copyright protection (the reason I've heard is that they have a direct, unmediated visual component, unlike sound recordings, but I'm not wholly certain about that).

However, federal copyright law was not amended to cover sound recordings until '72. (At that point, I think, you start to see the (P) symbol on records to indicate that it was registered for copyright.) Even before that time, however, one couldn't pirate records at will; sound recordings were protected by various state laws. The 1972 amendment made sound recording copyright a federal matter (for new recordings at least), and the regrettable 1998 act placed older recordings under the jurisdiction of state law until 2067. Tim Brooks, researcher extraordinaire of TV and sound recordings, has been a strong advocate of copyright reform and several articles pertaining to the copyright situation of early recordings are listed here; the first one is especially recommended.

Not all federally copyrighted pre-1923 works are unconditionally PD. The First National Chaplin films of 1918-22 are likely still protected by copyright since the prints available today are actually taken from alternate takes and thus may be considered "special content". Some restorations, especially those involving re-creation of tints or still reconstructions of scenes, may also fall in the realm of special content (and thus one cannot just copy a film off a commercial DVD and distribute it oneself, even if the film itself is PD). Post-1922 translations are obviously still protected if their copyright was renewed, so anyone could distribute a 19th-century translation of the Illiad or the Odyssey, but Robert Fitzgerald's translations are protected. Likewise, the vocabulary glosses provided in a modern edition of Shakespeare are likely owned by the publisher or editor, even if the plays and sonnets belong to the world.

And speaking of which, being PD hasn't hurt Shakespeare or Mozart one bit.

-Harold
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Frederica

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Re: Copyright question for you experts you

PostSun Oct 12, 2008 3:34 pm

Harold Aherne wrote:
And speaking of which, being PD hasn't hurt Shakespeare or Mozart one bit.

-Harold


They haven't seen a penny of it, though.

Fred
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Mike Gebert

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PostSun Oct 12, 2008 3:41 pm

“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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PostMon Oct 13, 2008 7:35 pm

I sold Beethoven an ear trumpet the other day but I had to loan him the amount of four Thaler coins because he was short as usual............Composers!

Gary J.
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PostTue Oct 14, 2008 12:58 am

gjohnson wrote:I sold Beethoven an ear trumpet the other day but I had to loan him the amount of four Thaler coins because he was short as usual............Composers!

Gary J.


What do you expect, if they've been ripped off of their royalties..... 8)
I could use some digital restoration myself...
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Marr&Colton

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PostSat Feb 14, 2009 4:19 pm

I would imagine any song that has fallen into the public domain years ago would not be protected now. Remember, Sonny Bono's "work" was in the 1980s, so everything that went PD before that should be safe. That's why so many movies from the 20s through the 50s made it to PD. You won't see too many movies made in the 70s and beyond going PD in our lifetimes.

FYI, a good way to check movies is to look up the titles in stock footage company websites--they did the searches and wouldn't offer a title if there was the slightest chance it was still copyrighted. Great databases can be found at:

www.reelmediainternational.com
www.buyoutfootage.com

Of course, these lists are not totally complete, but give you a good starting place. I was amazed there were some Fox titles from the 30s and 40s.
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Marr&Colton

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Special Content

PostSat Feb 14, 2009 4:28 pm

I have noticed this on new DVD releases of PD movies.

The way I understand "special content" comes under the following criteria:

DVD custom menus
Added music scores
Added tints (although this doesn't qualify as a new "work")
new intertitles for silent films
packaging design
DVD releasing company logos
new scenes recreated or added
alternate comment tracks
re-edited versions
subtitles

I have seen DVD releases that claim copyright for their transfer of a PD film, which I think is unenforceable and non-conforming to copyright.
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silentfilm

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PostSun Feb 15, 2009 12:50 am

It is true that all of these small modifications to a film are copyrightable. Raymond Rohauer was famous for making small edits to public domain films and replacing the intertitles so that his "version" was still under copyright.

The reality is that these public domain outfits do have copyright on their alternate tracks, menus, etc., but the copyright is almost unenforcable. When Passport Video completely duplicated David Shepard's Cecil B. DeMille films, Mr. Shepard did have a copyright infringement case against them. Unfortunately, the case would have been very expensive, more than Mr. Shepard could afford. They made a mistake of duplicating some copyrighted Elvis Presly videos though, and the Presley estate had the time and money to sue and win for copyright infringement. It was not enough to put Passport out of business though, and they are still bootlegging other people's restorations and selling them cheap.

Here's a neat website that explains how U.S. copyright terms work... http://librarycopyright.net/digitalslider/
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Marr&Colton

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PostSun Feb 15, 2009 6:41 am

I for one always pass up Passport Video releases. I've never seen a good quality product from them, and then there is the watermark they insert...

As for Rohauer's claims, I remember back in the 70s he was claiming all Buster Keaton silents were under his copyright. Between those and many other titles, a major damper was put on collectors and dealers against selling or trading heretofore public domain titles.

I know he passed away, but is his company still around?
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silentfilm

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PostSun Feb 15, 2009 7:34 am

Rohauer's collection is now controlled by the Douris corporation. Douris filed for bankruptcy last year, and I believe that they sold off the European rights to their collection, including the still-copyrighted Keaton features.

http://www.classicmovies.com/cm/catalog.asp
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Mr. X

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PostSun Feb 15, 2009 11:22 pm

Sound recordings pose considerable difficulties, owing to the different copyright laws in different countries and states; but, beyond the performers, the original music can be an additional hurdle.

I'm presently working on a film project and have also decided to only utilize public domain music.

Without ready access to the Copyright Office in Washington, I must restrict myself to music published before 1923, (to be certain that it is in the public domain in the United States). In Canada, copyright extends fifty (50) years after the author's death; and, in the European Union, copyright extends seventy (70) years after the author's death.

Any arrangement of the music may also have a derivative copyright; thus, a song, (for example, piano and vocal), may be in the public domain, yet be copyrighted for lyrics and for band instruments. John W. Bratton's music for "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" is in the public domain, but the lyrics were added later by Jimmy Kennedy, (and remain copyrighted).

I have had to forego music written by the Canadian composer, Willie Eckstein, (many of whose works are in the public domain in the United States, as he died in 1963, and remain copyrighted in Canada), and by the French composer Cécile Chaminade, (whose ballet music for "Callirhoé," performed in 1890, remains copyrighted in Europe, since she died as late as 1944).

I'm playing it safe. I buy or copy music, (or arrangements), from 1922 and before, as well as do a bit of research about the composer. And, when I find errors, I'll note them, so that my subsequent arrangements might enjoy a bit more protection, (with a derivative copyright), and be distinguished from simple copies of the original works.
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Marr&Colton

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PostFri Mar 05, 2010 6:33 am

That link to classicmovies.com is no longer active--it just takes you to a page offering that domain for sale.

They must be out of business.
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PostThu Jul 15, 2010 8:51 pm

Penfold wrote:
gjohnson wrote:I sold Beethoven an ear trumpet the other day but I had to loan him the amount of four Thaler coins because he was short as usual............Composers!

Gary J.


What do you expect, if they've been ripped off of their royalties..... 8)


Not quite a rip-off when you quit composing and start decomposing...... :shock:
Hardy: "I'm Mr Hardy, and this is my freind Mr. Laurel"
Stagehand: "Pleased to meet you."
Laurel: "Why?"

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