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Film copyright 1957-1989

 
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Nick Cooper
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:01 am    Post subject: Film copyright 1957-1989 Reply with quote

This isn't so much a question, as seeking confirmation that I'm understanding the legislation correctly (although not for any intended practical application). The 1956 Act set the copyright for "cinematograph films" at 50 years after the end of the year in which they were either registered (as per the Cinematograph Films Act 1938) or - if not registerable - published. In the 1988, Act Schedule 1 paragraph 12(2)(e) maintained this status for films registered/published on or after 1 June 1957 until the new Act came into effect (i.e. 31 July 1989). Now, that would have meant that any films registered/published on or after 1 June 1957 would have progressively begun to fall into the public domain on 1 January 2008 onwards. However, Regulation 15 in the 1995 Statutory Instrument represents a "blanket" rule that the terms of the 1988 Act only continue to apply if they are longer than the 1995 provisions. Effectively this abolishes the registration/publication + 50 years for 1957-1989 films, under which by that stage (i.e. 1995) no films had entered the public domain, anyway. Am I right in this interpretation?

This issue interests me, I see that on some websites there is a dogged insistance that the 1956 Act provisions still apply to 1957-1989 films, and that therefore those registered/published up to 31 December 1962 are now in the public domain; this did actually seem convincing to me upon reading the 1956 and 1988 Acts, but not when the 1995 SI is taken into account. In a similar vein, there seems to be a school of thought that any television programmes first broadcast up to 31 December 1962 are now also public domain, by virtue of the 50 year copyright on the broadcast. Clearly this misses the point that it is the signal itself that is subject to this duration, not the content of the signal, and that the programme would be defined as a "film" and subject to the applicable term.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Nick,
I'm glad your question is not connected to any practical application of the law on films in this category, because it is immensely complicated as you have discovered.
The 1956 Act (section 13) introduced several categories for films: registered and unregistered, published and unpublished. Registered films were films that were registered under various Cinematograph Films Acts made between 1927 - 1957. As you know prior to the 1956 Copyright Act, cinematographic films were not protected as single entities, but rather as a series of still photographs, possibly along with a sound recording (ie the sound track if there was one).
Each of the categories of film had a slightly different term and indeed the periods affected also varied, but generally cover the period 1957 - 1989. I won't make this reply too long by going through all the details, but these factors may need to be taken into account when trying to work out when a work was due to enter the public domain and thus the effect of the 1995 Regulations on it.
The 1995 Regulations brought the EU Copyright Directive 93/98/EEC into UK law. Amongst its other provisions which you have noted, it also made it necessary to consider whether works published in other EEA countries might be subject to even longer copyright terms. Spain for example used to grant life plus 80 years, and France added extra years if the author had fought in the First or Second World Wars.
And if that was not enough confusion, we have a number of decisions by the Court of Justice of the European Union which have determined how provisions of the Directive 93/98 should be interpreted (for example: Collins V Imtrat 1994, or Land Hessen v G Ricori 2003)
But the upshot is that in many cases the 1995 Regulations did bring some works, including films, back into copyright even though their terms under the old rules had expired.

Broadcasts are similar to films in that prior to 1957 they were not covered by copyright, although the programme content, such as films, plays, music, scripts etc, probably was. However if a programme was re-transmitted after 1 June 1957 it would gain copyright.
But broadcasts don't have authors in the direct sense as with works of literature, music, drama or art. They have 'makers', who are broadly speaking the person who transmits the broadcast (such as the BBC, Sky etc) and the individual programme makers such as producers or editors. Because there can be a very large number of people who qualify as the 'makers' of a programme, and since the underlying work such as a drama may have its own much longer copyright term, the term for broadcasts is fixed at 50 years from the end of the year it is first transmitted. If the programme maker is not an EEA national then the term which applies in the maker's own nation will apply if it is shorter than 50 years.
You are right that this copyright applies just to the signal and to any component which would not otherwise be subject to copyright (for instance because the content was in the public domain or subject matter to which copyright does not apply such as sport).
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Nick Cooper
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, right, I think I may have overlooked the significance of "Cinematograph Films" being in Part II of the 1956 Act, i.e. the 50 years protection in Section 13 being the term for the physical print/s of the film, rather than the content, in the same way that Section 14 protects broadcast signals, not the actual programme/s being carried by them. Despite this, in certain circles it is being claimed that Section 13 applies to a film in its entirety - so anything released between 1 June 1957 and 31 December 1962 is now public domain - and even that it applied retrospectively, so everything released previously is, as well. Strangely, this usually goes hand-in-hand with a claim that the 1995 SI could not be retrospective, and therefore anything released up to 31 December 1945 had fallen into the public domain and stayed there. The same sort of "logic" is being used to claim that the 50 year protection on TV brioadcasts means that any TV programmes first screened in the same date range are also public domain.

I have been involved in the properly licensed release of one film - Things to Come, originally released in 1936 - and it became apparent during that process and subsequently just how often it is still claimed as public domain in the US and even the UK. It did undoubtedly fall into the US public domain in 1964 (non-renewal), but has clearly remained in copyright in the UK, and so would have been restored under GATT. It's probably a good case study for the changes in the law over the years. The writer (of script and original story), H.G. Wells, died in 1946; the director, William Cameon Menzies, in 1957; and the composer of original music, Arthur Bliss, in 1975. My understanding of the various lesgislation is that they progressively gave protection to the end of 1996 (1911 Act - Wells as first death), 2007 (1956 Act - Menzies as last death), and 2025 (1988 Act - Bliss as last death), amended to 2045 (1995 SI).
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again Nick,
I'm glad that you continue to stress the difference between copyright in a film itself, and the entirely separate copyright which may exist in the individual frames (as photographs) or the music, drama, script etc.
Dealing with film copyright, it is true that, theoretically a film of British origin which had gone out of copyright before 1 January 1996 (when the 1995 Regulations came into force) would not have been affected by the new Regulations. They would have been classed as 'existing works' for the purposes of Regulation 16 which says:
Quote:
Duration of copyright: application of new provisions
16. The new provisions relating to duration of copyright apply—
    (a) to copyright works made after commencement;
    (b) to existing works which first qualify for copyright protection after commencement;
    (c) to existing copyright works, subject to Regulation 15 (general saving for any longer period applicable under 1988 provisions); and
    (d) to existing works in which copyright expired before 31st December 1995 but which were on 1st July 1995 protected in another EEA state under legislation relating to copyright or related rights.
The reference to 'existing copyright works' concerns works which were still in copyright at the time the Regulations came into force. Sub paragraph (d) is intended to deal with those special cases I mentioned previously where other European Economic Area states had longer terms than that brought in by the EU Directive (ie life + 70 years of the longest living survivor of the director, author of screenplay or dialogue, or composer of the score).
So (b) would be the main operative part as far as out-of-copyright films are concerned, and this where it is necessary to know the category of the film as per Section 13 of the 1956 Act, especially those classed as registerable, but unregistered, and unregisterable / unpublished films where copyright subsisted from the creation date but the actual 50 year term did not commence until either registration or publication (respectively) had occurred.
But, of course film copyright did not exist prior 1 June 1957 so no film copyright for films made in the UK had actually ended because as at 31 December 1995, only 38 years had elapsed. Dealing with foreign films under this formula is horrendously complicated especially if the country of origin is the USA, for reasons which I'm sure you are aware of.
The main reason why a differentiation between the term for the film itself and its component parts might be worth knowing is that Regulation 24 introduced a mandatory licence for any film which had had its film copyright revived, subject to a couple of formalities.
The film Things to Come provides a good example of how all this works in practice, as you have explained. Since a film made before 1957 had no copyright in the complete movie, and the list of people now credited as authors (director, author of the screenplay, composer of the score etc) applied in their individual capacities rather than jointly, to that list we must also add the cinematographer as the author of the series of photographs which made up the film. In the case of Things to Come, IMDB says this was Georges Périnal who died in 1965, so before Arthur Bliss.
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Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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