Friday, February 14, 2014

Even Good Films May Go to Purgatory; New York Times, 2/14/14

Nicolas Rapold, New York Time; Even Good Films May Go to Purgatory:
""The answers vary according to the patchwork of rules governing motion picture copyrights at different times all the way back to the silent era.
The earliest films are the easiest to explain: Those from before 1923 are in the public domain.
Until the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998, films could generally enjoy 75 years of copyright protection. Anything that had fallen out by then, however, was understood to stay in the public domain. That alone covers a wealth of film history, including much of the work of foundational filmmakers including Griffiths and Keaton.
After 1923, public-domain challenges arise when the copyright is not renewed. Later Congressional extensions of copyright complicate the matter (and have been the subject of debate), but the initial period is crucial.
“Most commonly, a film’s copyright might not be renewed after its initial 28 years of protection had expired,” Michael Mashon, head of the moving image section at the Library of Congress, wrote in an email.
He cited the examples of the Buster Keaton film “The General” (1926), “His Girl Friday,” “Meet John Doe” and “Nothing Sacred,” a 1937 screwball comedy starring Carole Lombard.
Other films didn’t follow basic rules for maintaining copyright. For instance, “The Night of the Living Dead” and “Carnival of Souls,” a Herk Harvey horror film that has since received a Criterion Collection release, both failed to display a copyright notice clearly enough in the credits.
That notification eventually ceased to be a requirement, but not before affecting Sam Peckinpah’s debut feature, “The Deadly Companions,” and “Charade.”

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