MAC Week 1 – Return of the Living Copyright

8 06 2013

According to Wikimedia Commons, Night of the Living Dead is public domain. The owners did not include proper copyright notice in the film.

So back in Film Making Principles of Education, we were assigned to watch the Alfred Hitchcock film, Rear Window. My first impulse was that we must be watching this movie because it is old and its copyright expired.

I mean legally free.

I thought surely, I must be able to find this movie for free on the Internet .

My search lead me to movies that were said to be in public domain.  According to sources on the net, the movie “Night of the Living Dead” and “Brother from Another Planet” were both public domain.  Several websites claimed that they were public domain due to the fact that someone left the copyright out of the credits. Update: I was making sure the image properly linked back to Wikimedia Commons. I noticed that Wikimedia Commons did in fact say that this film was in public domain.

I am well aware that I could probably find “The Man of Steel” free on the Internet…

After this weeks lesson on 10 Myths About Copyright,  it would seem those stories are just as fictitious  as  an undead African American invasion from outer space.  According to the video we watched, no copyright does not mean it is not copy written. From what I have found most recently is that  works published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 that did not include a copyright notice are considered public domain. So where does this leave the movie “Brother from Another Planet” ? I am unable to locate any documentation that seems to justify exactly why it has entered public domain, so I believe that whatever site had it listed as public domain was incorrect. Anyone have any input?

…but I love movies and therefore would not steal them.

What exactly is a copyright?

It was very simply explained, “ If you can create it, you can legally protect it.” I feel as if I am breaking some type of copyright by publishing those words.The movie is not yours free for free.

The one true exception was the 1994 version of the Fantastic Four. I was young and downloaded it. I payed dearly by watching it, it was beyond Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus awful. Crime truly doesn’t pay.

Copyright was created following the invention of the printing press, due to concerns of Charles II, or Chuck Version 2.0 as I like to call him, of England.

The first real copyright was the Statute of Anne in 1710.

Copyright protects more than just printed documents, it protects music, art, computer software and architectural design.

What isn’t protected by copyright law?


Skits , songs, or dances without a written script are not subject to copyright. To copyright this material, you should write it down on paper or record the material.  You should also mail the document for copyright purposes. You need visual proof to show that you created it. Once you put the performance into a tangible form, it may then be copyrighted.

Titles, Names, Short Phrases or Slogans

You can copyright the object on which they appear, but not the words themselves.

Common Property

Things like a standard calendar or tape measurer. The materials to construct these are considered common knowledge.

Copyright Duration

  • Life of the author + 70 years
  • A company holds a copyright for 100 years.



3 responses

9 06 2013
Ken Greene

Jay, Isn’t it interesting that so little appears to be understood about copyright? I’ve been a fan of George Romero’s “Dead” films since I was a kid (had a thing for horror and sci-fi) and must have seen Night of the Living Dead a hundred times. I never noticed that there was no copyright in the closing credits. Just think of all those fabulous black and white images of zombies terrorizing the people in that farm house that have been up for grabs all these years! Or not.

I read a story today on how the music industry is embracing the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy in an effort to survive. Admitting that there is no way to prevent people from bringing their smart phones into live performances and flagrantly violating numerous copyright laws by uploading their recordings to YouTube, recording companies, promoters, and musicians are selling professional recordings – audio and video – of performances at concerts. The prices are affordable, the quality is superior, and the recordings are legal. It was a timely and interesting article that you might enjoy reading.


9 06 2013
11 06 2013
joe bustillos

Great interaction with the materials… Yeah, “when in doubt, leave it out” is the assumption that anything published after the 1920s is NOT in the public domain unless you can prove otherwise. Unlike Patent law, copyright is not invalidated by inaction by the copyright owner to defend the copyright. So, my guess is that the “Brother from Another Planet” confusion is just another urban legend. Also, quoting someone else for educational purposes is not a violation (assuming that the quote is properly attributed). It is complicated.


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