Is it legal to show public domain movies from a DVD?

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DeadMan asked:

The DVDs have a notice on them saying that you can’t, of course, but public domain movies are owned by the public. Do they really have the right to restrict you from using their copy of the movie? If so, then where did they get the movie from themselves?

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2 Responses to “Is it legal to show public domain movies from a DVD?”
  1. pepper Says:

    If the DVD has a notice on them saying you can’t, they aren’t public domain. If someone owns the copyright (patent, trademark, etc.) to the work it isn’t public domain.

    You are restricted by the terms allowed by the copyright holder.

    What is the movie? (And they may have paid the copyright holder for distribution rights.)

  2. gomanyes562 Says:

    There are very few public domain movies in existence. Copyright in the US generally lasts 75 years, and the film industry has barely been around that long.

    If a movie is in the public domain for some reason, then publishers often adapt the movie and copyright the adaptation. For example, they may remaster the color or touch up the soundtrack to eliminate noise, and then copyright the changes they made, effectively preventing you from showing the movie.

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