Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual Property Law Questions? Ask a Lawyer
Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.There is no real conclusive means of ascertaining if a movie is in the public domain short of the owner of the copyright formally and expressly stating that the item is public. The concept of 'public domain' is fairly subjective in nature, with certain factors being taken into consideration to see if the subject matter is indeed public. For example if the creator fails to protect the copyright for a significant period of time, or if the movie is uploaded and listed at public viewing sites (such as YouTube), then it is far more likely that an argument could be made that the movie is now part of the public domain. There is also of course the intellectual property whose copyrights have simply expired. But that process is quite complex since rights may have been assigned to third parties, or even after passing of the owner of the copyright, extended for an additional seventy years past the death of the creator. The best approach is the most direct--contact the owner or holder of the copyright, if any, and find out if the copyright has expired.Good luck.
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