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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Copyright law I am hoping to release a silent movie with a

Resolved Question:

Copyright law
I am hoping to release a silent movie with a new soundtrack recorded.
If a film is in the public domain, can i resell the film on DVD with an altered soundtrack?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

To confirm, do you intend to alter the original soundtrack and use this in your film?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Apologies, reading back my question isn't clear.The film we are hoping to use is in the public domain (hopefully) - La petite marchande d'allumettes - we are hoping to remove the soundtrack and release the film with a completely new soundtrack - unrelated to the original.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

No problem at all and thank you for your response. I will review the relevant information and laws and will get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Also, please do not responded to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Many thanks for your patience. The key is what you believe to be the meaning of ‘in the public domain’. I hope by that you mean that it no longer has any copyright attached to it. That is the only way you can re-release it without seeking any sort of permission from its copyright owners. As far as film productions are concerned, the Berne Convention states that copyright expires 50 years from the making of the work, or if it was made available to the public within those initial 50 years – for 50 years from the date it was first made available to the public (e.g. it was released in cinemas). So in effect you are looking at when the film was initially released to the public and count 50 years from then to calculate when copyright would have expired. Assuming copyright has expired and the work is not in the public domain then you are able to re-release it with a new soundtrack, subject to having no copyright issues with the music as well as that would have its own separate copyrights.

I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars - this is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you still need me to clarify anything else, please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I'm confused by the Berne Convention? I thought work fell out of copyright 70 years after the death of the creator - in the case of film i presume the director?Thanks,
Rick
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

The Berne Convention provides a benchmark for copyright duration and individual countries are able to have different laws as long as they are at least as the duration given by the Convention. So yes, in the UK there are separate laws which create a longer copyright for films, that being 70 years as you mentioned but that only applies to the UK. France may have its own separate laws that create different duration so as I cannot cover all possible laws for every country where the film may be released, I can only give you the minimum terms as required by law and if you wish to release in specific countries you need to satisfy yourself as to the more specific laws that may apply there. Hope this clarifies?

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