Abandoned IP-Old TV Shows?

I wonder about the fate of old TV shows from the 1950’s. If episodes of such a show end up on YouTube, think it’s a safe bet that nobody owns the rights anymore-am I wrong? If you see an old series for sale, are you usually getting a pirated copy?
Something tells me that the entertainment industry never really throws anything away.

Shows after 1963 are under copyright.

Shows aired from 1963 or earlier may or may not be copyrighted, though most probably are. They would have had to have renewed their copyright. But since syndication was already recognized as a big moneymaker in 1963, most shows renewed copyright.

There are certainly exceptions, where the paperwork wasn’t filled out properly or the show was considered to obscure to bother to renew. But, in general, someone owns the rights to the shows.

Just because something has shown up on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s been abandoned. Additional explanations include:

  1. The IP owner hasn’t found it yet.

  2. The IP owner has better things to do. It may not pay to have have someone scouring YouTube for pirated videos for a show that’s not bringing in any income to pay for it.

  3. The IP owner views the clips as advertising. I.e., they hope that people will buy the show’s DVD or beg a retro network to carry it.

It is almost always wishful thinking to hope that some IP has been abandoned. Even they stuff that got missed due to copyright renewal screwups (like a handful of Andy Griffith episodes), is still not really abandoned in a literal sense. (The music may still be covered, for example.)