[d at DCC] Movie copyright duration
jonathan.addleman at mail.mcgill.ca
Wed Jul 18 11:43:53 EDT 2007
I asked a similar question on this list a couple of years ago, but I'm
still not too certain about the answer.
How long does copyright last on movies in Canada? The act says the
Except for cinematographic works in which the arrangement or acting form
or the combination of incidents represented give the work a dramatic
character, copyright in a cinematographic work or a compilation of
cinematographic works shall subsist
(a) for the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication
of the cinematographic work or of the compilation, and for a period of
fifty years following the end of that calendar year; or
(b) if the cinematographic work or compilation is not published
before the expiration of fifty years following the end of the calendar
year of its making, for the remainder of that calendar year and for a
period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year.
So it looks like a normal feature film (a film with a 'dramatic
character') would be under copyright for 50 years after the author's
death. But is the 'author' defined anywhere? Director? Writer? Producer?
Gaffer? So many different people work on a movie, it seems quite
impossible to define an author!
The copyright circular at
"For cinematographic works made prior to January 1, 1994, there is no
special rule and the author is simply the person who created the work.
The author of a cinematographic work made after January 1, 1994 is the
person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the
cinematographic work were undertaken." Which makes me lean towards the
producer being the main 'author', though it doesn't give any guidelines
for pre-1994 works.
In looking through the CIPO database
Some movies listed the director, some the producer, some the writer, and
some with various combinations of people. Most have nothing listed at
all though - if they show up in that database in any form, they just
show up as a 'Type: Grant of Interest'.
One interesting case is 'Les Invasions Barbares', which is listed with
the author as 'Gagnon, François / Thellen, Pascal' - though a look at
the credits on imdb.com shows that Francois Gagnon was a carpenter, and
Pascal Thellen doesn't appear at all!
So it seems that a creator of a movie is free to treat just about anyone
they like as the 'author', which strikes me as completely absurd.
I wonder if there's anyone that could possibly clarify this, or would it
take a court case to pin it down? Maybe someone should take an old and
very well-known movie, say Gone with the Wind or The Wizard of Oz, and
do something very public with it as a test of whether it's in the public
domain or not. I wouldn't want to risk the possibility of finding that
it's not, though! I wonder if there's any safer way to find out?
Jon-o Addleman - http://www.redowl.ca
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