View Full Version : Movies, Soundtracks and the Public Domain
04-03-2001, 10:26 AM
If a movie enters into the public domain, does that mean its soundtrack does also? The soundtrack is usually released separately from the film, so is it under a separate copyright?
Of course, I don't count music that the film has already borrowed from other sources. I only mean original music written and recorded specifically for the film itself.
04-03-2001, 04:39 PM
Caveat: I'm not a lawyer, so take me even less seriously than usual (if that's possible).
The copyrights to a movie and its soundtrack can be separate. Case in point: you remember how, ten years ago, EVERY television station seemed to play "It's a Wonderful Life" around the clock at Christmas time? And how there were dozens of companies selling that film on videotape?
Well, have you noticed how that movie is NOT ubiquitous at Christmas time any more? And that the videotapes cost a lot more now?
That's because, while "It's a WOnderful Life" is NOW regarded as a classic, it was NOT well received when first released. In fact, it was regarded as an expensive, self-indulgent bomb- the "Heaven's Gate" of its time. For years, it was ignored. Eventually, the film's copyrights lapsed, and it fell into the public domain.
Years later, television audiences re-discovered the film, and came to love it. Since it was in the public domain, television stations could play it without paying anyone, and video distributors could sell copies without paying anyone.
It was only much later that a lawyer discovered something: though the movie itself was now in the public domain, the copyrights on its SOUNDTRACK were still in force! Thus, TV stations can no longer show the film for free, and video companies can't make copies, free of charge (well, they could, but what good is a movie with no soundtrack?).
04-08-2001, 10:37 PM
In fact, it was regarded as an expensive, self-indulgent bomb- the "Heaven's Gate" of its time.
Budget of It's a Wonderful Life: $3.2 million
Box office receipts of IaWL, c.1947: $3.3 million
Budget of Heaven's Gate: $44 million
Box office receipts of HG, c.1982: $1.5 million
Not even close. Yes, Capra's film was seen as the same-old same-old as his pre-war stuff, and no the film did not break even, but to compare it to the film which went monstrously overbudget and contributed to the downfall of an entire studio is, well, stupid.
And the Hollywood community did embrace the film--it did get 5 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Actor, and Director (and RKO was not big or powerful enough to throw its weight around to the extent it could "buy" the nods)
Historical revisionism is fine, but let's get your facts straight before you resort to gross hyperbole.
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