What Is Public Domain

Public Domain is an intellectual property designation referring to the body of creative works and knowledge in which no person, government or organization has any proprietary interest such as a copyright. These works are considered part of the public cultural and intellectual heritage of content that is not owned or controlled by anyone and which may be freely used by all. According to Wikipedia: “These materials are public property, and available for anyone to use freely (the “right to copy”) for any purpose. The public domain can be defined in contrast to several forms of intellectual property; the public domain in contrast to copyrighted works is different from the public domain in contrast to trademarks or patented works.”

How Does a Film Enter the Public Domain?

A film’s protected status and protectable life begins with the initial commercial showing, the copyright registration date, or the in-notice date – whichever comes first. To help people understand the general principals of why a film enters the public domain, Festival Films has put together a helpful synopsis, which is reproduced below. Although there is no single method for determining if a film – or parts of it – is in the public domain, most have entered the public domain because they were:

  • released without Copyright Notices;
  • were never registered with the Library of Congress, had improper or late registrations; or
  • were not renewed after 28 years under the old requirements for films made before 1964.

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