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Why Doesn't TCM Show PUBLIC DOMAIN Films???


Metropolisforever
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In 1996, the Turner Broadcasting System merged with Time Warner. Not only did this put TCM and Warner Bros. under the same corporate umbrella, but it also gave TCM access to the post-1948 Warner Bros. library. Besides MGM and United Artists releases, TCM also shows films under license from Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Columbia Pictures. Most pre-1950 Paramount releases are owned by Universal, today a division of NBC Universal, while Paramount (currently owned by Viacom) holds on to most of its post-1950 releases, which are handled for television by CBS Television Distribution. Columbia is owned by Sony.

 

I have a question.

 

Why doesn't TCM show PUBLIC DOMAIN movies???

 

Public domain movies are not owned by ANYONE. TCM could easily show these movies without worrying about copyright issues.

 

Public domain movies are rarely shown on TCM.

 

...Any thoughts???

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Penny Serenade, showing again tomorrow, and the recently aired Meet John Doe are two more examples. To the O.P., did you mean that there are other p.d. films out there that TCM should air? Films originally produced by the major studios that fell into the public domain are aired fairly often on TCM. Minor productions that are now p.d., such as films issued by Alpha on DVD, probably don't surface on the schedule much.

 

Sometimes TCM's version of a p.d. film (Meet John Doe, e.g.) has shaky picture quality, and at other times (His Girl Friday, e.g.) the TCM version is better than the dollar-bin tapes and DVDs of the same film. In the case of His Girl Friday, though, the original studio (Columbia, via Sony) has issued a high-quality DVD of the film, so perhaps TCM has begun licensing that version.

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There seems to be a disincentive for original studios to issue DVD versions or allow TCM or other services to show versions copied from original media where these movies have fallen into the Public Domain. Reissues or showings of the original media invite better quality rip-offs to enter the marketplace thereby reducing the value of the studio's original product.

 

So, it seems to me, that owners of the original media keep their public domain titles locked away in their vaults until such circumstances arise that might allow them to reassume the rights to their own product.

 

An example is It's a Wonderful Life where Paramount has issued restored versions on DVD since 2006. NBC-Universal has an exclusive right to "broadcast" this movie. The last time I watched this movie it was from a 11/25/89 showing on AMC.

 

This raises these questions, does the original owner of a public domain movie reassert ownership through a substantial restoration of the original media and be able to issue it under a new copyright?

 

Message was edited by: talkietime

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talkietime , here is the info on It's A wonderful Life, the only PD film that I know of that was bought back.....

 

Ownership and copyright issues

The copyright for the film was accidentally allowed to lapse in 1974. Liberty Films was purchased by Paramount Pictures, and remained a subsidiary until 1951. Paramount owned the film until 1955, when they sold a few of their features and most of their cartoons and shorts to television distributor U.M.&M. TV. Corporation. This included key rights to It's a Wonderful Life, including the original television syndication rights, the original nitrate film elements, the music score and the story on which the film is based, "The Greatest Gift."[29] National Telefilm Associates (NTA) took over the rights to the U.M.& M. library soon afterward. However, a clerical error at NTA prevented the copyright from being renewed properly in 1974.

 

Despite the lapse in copyright, television stations that aired it still were required to pay royalties. Although the film's images had entered the public domain, the film's story was still protected by virtue of it being a derivative work of the published story, "The Greatest Gift," whose copyright was properly renewed by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1971. By coincidence, the film became a perennial holiday favorite in the 1980s, possibly due to the advent of the home video era. It was sometimes mentioned during the deliberations on the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998.

 

In 1993, Republic Pictures, which was the successor to NTA, relied on the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Stewart v. Abend (which involved another Stewart film, Rear Window) to enforce its claim of copyright. While the film's copyright had not been renewed, it was a derivative work of various works that were still copyrighted. As a result, the film is no longer shown as much on television. (NBC is currently licensed to show the film on U.S. network television, and only shows it traditionally twice during the holidays, with one showing primarily on Christmas Eve from 8-11 Eastern time) and now Paramount (via parent company Viacom's 1998 acquisition of Republic's then-parent, Spelling Entertainment) once again has ancillary rights for the first time since 1955. Artisan Entertainment (under license from Republic) took over home video rights in the mid-1990s. Artisan was later sold to Lions Gate Entertainment, which continued to hold home video rights until late 2005 when they reverted to Paramount.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's_a_Wonderful_Life#Ownership_and_copyright_issues

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