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If the movie did not have a copyright notice on it (at the beginning) then it would be in the public domain. This actually happened to "Night of the Living Dead", where the film lost any protection that it would have had because of the failure to include a copyright notice on it. So if you never included any notice on the film itself, it would be public domain.
THAT BEING SAID, while the original film is public domain, if you have sole possession of the film (and it's not being produced), you can remaster the film (sound, etc...) and release it again in a remastered format, get THAT copyrighted, and since the original would not be out there, it would be as if you copyrighted that original...
(in a roundabout way)
A remastered form of a public domain work is copyrightable.
And like I said, if you're the only one in possession of that work, even though it's public domain, you have sole control over it, and so long as you don't release that original one, but the remastered version, then the only one that would actually be in the public would be the copyright one.
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How does the following info. affect the copyright: The film is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in NY, the New York Public Library, and The Walker Gallery in Mineapolis.
If you never copyrighted it at the beginning, it's not. Works between 1923 and 1977 that are published without a copyright notice are public domain. But as such, you can remaster that and get a new copyright.
Would producing a Digital Copy of the film on to a DVD constitute a remastering having been achieved? Than I would copyright the DVD?
No. You would need to change the creative elements (even putting the audio / visual elements through filters, etc... to sharpen them, etc... would be enough) but merely translating them to a different form of media would not be enough since it doesn't really change the creative elements.
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When applying for copyright does the Copyright symbol have to be visible on the new master and where? Last question; Does making a digital copy of the original film constitute a remastering?
Not in the new one. Since 1977 you don't have to publish it with a copyright notice.
Like I said about the DVD, simply a copy translated to some new form of media is not enough. There has to be a modification of the creative elements.
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