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Single frame of old pre-war film

Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:08 pm
by Lumberjack
What is the copyright situation with a single frame of a pre war film (1930s). I don't mean a shot of people or film stars, but more of everyday objects such as a steam locomotive, a ship, or a covered wagon or even scenes such as a Klondyke gold rush town etc, etc?

Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:10 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Lumberjack.

Prior to the 1956 Copyright Act, films or motion pictures weren't protected as such by copyright in the UK. The protection came by treating them as a series of still images each of which was protected as a photograph, a sound recording if there was a sound track, and copyright in any drama which might have been portrayed on screen.

Therefore your single frame would be treated the same as a photograph. The duration of protection for photographs under section 21 of the 1911 Copyright Act was 50 years from the making of the photograph. Fortunately, by virtue of paragraph 16 of Schedule 7 (Transitional Arrangements) of the 1956 Copyright Act, any film made before commencement of the 1956 Act (ie 1 June 1957) remained subject to the old rules. I say 'fortunate' because section 13 of the 1956 Copyright Act which changed all that by protecting the film (or cinematograph film as it was termed) in its own right, also introduced a fairly complicated system for determining the duration of copyright for films, based on whether they were registered with the Board of Trade or not. But since copyright in your single frame of film will have ended 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made, we don't need to worry about that!

Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:34 pm
by Lumberjack
Thanks very much for the reply. The film in question is on Utube, and said to be in the Public Domain anyway, but the frame included in it that I am interested in was not a product of the film producers, but actual footage from an even earlier time that had been inserted for realism!
So I guess it is OK.