Friday, May 23, 2008

In the Public Domain

This piece about a batch of Warner Bros. animated shorts for the war department that would be owned by the Feds if they had only renewed copyright is worth perusing.

... it’s fairly startling that any of the Private Snafu cartoons ever got made. All of the cartoons required War Department approval before they were screened, and no one ever accused the U.S. military of having a sense of humor. But the films place a very heavy emphasis on slapstick knockabout, often using slightly blue jokes, mild cussing (the word “hell” turns up) and vaguely tasteless gags to get their points across. But somehow or other, the cartoons received official approval, resulting in 28 shorts (averaging slightly less than five minutes) that were made between 1943 and 1945.

You can go through the $2 DVD bins at Toys-R-Us and other places and come across Public Domain Fleischers, Warners and Schlesigner cartoons (and a few others) that never got their copyrights renewed. (This never happened to the Disney product, for Uncle Walt wasn't that inattentive.)

It would be pleasant indeed if somebody could pin down negatives and/or first-generation prints for a lot of this material, since a lot of it is worth owning if it's not a dupe of a dupe.

Otherwise, not so much.

5 comments:

Paul Naas said...

A number of the Snafu and Sailor Hook (the Navy equivalent) cartoons are on the Warner Brothers Gold Collection DVDs. A comprehensive collection would be better, but at least there are some available from good quality prints.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused...

"Warner Bros. animated shorts for the war department that would be owned by the Feds if they had only renewed copyright"

As government produced work, aren't they automatically PD? Per the copyright law.

The Jerk said...

actually i understand there was at least one example of a disney cartoon in PD- I believe Susie the Blue Coupe is actually lapsed,and can be found on a couple of cheap collections.

Steve Hulett said...

As government produced work, aren't they automatically PD? Per the copyright law.

You could be right. I know that copyright has been extended over and over during my life, the better to keep Mickey Mouse and "Gone With the Wind" protected.

Anonymous said...

This copyright scholar makes a compelling argument that at least the first three Mickey Mouse cartoons are PD because the copyright notice didn't adhere to the form required by the law at that time:

http://homepages.law.asu.edu/%7Edkarjala/OpposingCopyrightExtension/publicdomain/HedenkampFreeMickeyMouseVaSp&E(2003).htm

I have the Mickey Mouse in Black and White DVDs and on some early cartoons it appears that the copyright notice is not part of the original image but has been superimposed in modern post.

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