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Public Domain - A Gold Mine Of Visual Metaphors
We answer your questions about public domain titles and why it's the best value for your production.
The following information is provided as a general guideline only - it is not intended to be used as legal advice.
For specific legal advice relating to copyright law, consult with a qualified attorney.
Q - What does it mean when a film or video is considered "Public Domain"?
A- Public Domain is a term that refers to works that are no longer protected by copyright.
Q - How do films become "Public Domain"
A- There are a variety of reasons. Here are some of the main ones:
1. The copyright has expired.
(any work published in the United States before 1923.)
2. The title was published before 1964 and the registration was not renewed.
(renewal was a requirement for works published before 1978.)
3. A work was first published without an appropriate copyright notice.
(copyright notice was necessary for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989)
4. The work was donated to the public domain by the copyright holder.
5. Government produced works are generally not eligible for copyright protection.
Q - Are there any restrictions in how I use these films?
A- Public Domain footage can be used editorially to inform, educate and entertain. The footage can used in whole or in part.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are “3rd party" rights issues to be aware of that have nothing to do with copyright. These include the “right of privacy”, “right of publicity” and “trademark” and are typically associated with commercial exploitation - such as advertising for products or services.

For example, if you want to sell DVD's of a public domain movie that's fine. If you want to use selected scenes in a documentary, news program, or for educational or entertainment purposes... that's fine also. However, if you want to use a clip of John Wayne in a Pepsi commercial, you need to get clearance from his estate.

As a general rule of thumb, if you plan to use selections from Public Domain material for commercial advertising purposes, use generic shots instead of celebrities or trademarked characters.

If you have further questions or need specific legal advice for your particular project, consult with a qualified attorney.
Q - What about international copyright laws? Can I use the footage in other countries?
A- Generally speaking, works produced by the U.S. Government would be considered public domain worldwide. For non-government commercially produced works, most countries that are members of the Berne Convention (international copyright consortium) follow the "rule of the shorter term" which means that if a work is considered to be in the U.S. Public Domain it is also considered Public Domain in the member country. However, since not every country follows this rule and it would be impossible to keep up with every regulation for every country, BUYOUT FOOTAGE.COM MAKES NO REPRESENTATION AS TO THE COPYRIGHT STATUS OF ANY WORK OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.