FREE Shipping on orders over $25 shipped by Amazon. Please check your email to confirm your subscription! After that, it managed to find itself back under copyright protection and in a position to exploit the work once thought to be out of copyright forever. status. It's a Wonderful Life is not particularly complex, deep or stylistically marvelous. Amazon's Choice for its a wonderful life collectibles. I don’t know about you, but I remain unconvinced that one can lay claim to the copyright of a derivative work after that work has lapsed into the public domain. It's a Wonderful Life, with its inflated budget and saccharine tale touting old-timey values, was met with a whimper, making only an estimated $3.3 million against a $3.7 million budget. Originally released in 1946, It’s A Wonderful Life was a marginally successful movie which passed into the public domain in the early 1970s following a snafu with its renewal paperwork. I am not a lawyer and nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. It truly is "A Wonderful Life" !Closing scene from the movie - Its A Wonderful Life […] The video at the top of this piece is 21 minutes long, but is actually very interesting, and well worth watching. For the nitty gritty detail, watch this movie. It’s a film and a message that many, myself included, grew up with and something that was a near-constant presence during the holiday season. 99. “It’s a Wonderful Life” debuted in 1946 and was based on a short story, “The Greatest Gift”, which was written by Phillip Van Doren Stern in 1939. So, > what's the story on the change in music ? Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. It’s also clear that the story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” is atypical of its peers. According to the 1909 Copyright Act, creative works were protected for 28 years at a time. At the time the movie was filmed and released, under the Copyright Act of 1909, U.S. copyright protection lasted 28 years from publication with proper notice or registration, and could be renewed for an additional 28 years by filing a proper renewal registration with the Copyright Office. On the other, the film only became a holiday classic because of near-constant airplay that was made possible by it being in the public domain and Republic, by reclaiming and enforcing the rights, has severely curtailed what, for many, has been a long-standing holiday tradition. Plagiarism Today is a website aimed at webmasters and other creators to help them address the issues of plagiarism, copyright infringement and other forms of content misuse online. Today is International Verify Your Backups Day, Kobo Inks Distribution Deal With Writing Community Widbook. After he died, Woolrich’s estate renewed the copyright but did not renew the movie rights deal (despite Woolrich’s stated intentions of doing so), instead, it sold those rights to Abend for $650. In other words, Republic determined that It's a Wonderful Life had not really fallen into the public domain after all--they didn't find out for 20 years and so public television stations and others had been allowed to broadcast the film without permission. The case, Stewart v. Abend, pitted a production company co-owned by James Stewart against a literary agent, heldon Abend, who purchased the rights to many movies and stories, including the rights to “It Had to Be Murder”, a story by Cornell Woolrich, which the film “Rear Window” was based upon. TV networks, eager for cheap holiday-oriented content, latched on to the film and began to play it during the holiday season. There are no rights to lay claim to at that point, given that the work now belongs to everyone and no one (that’s the point of the public domain). It's a Wonderful Life is a sentimental favorite... in part because of Jimmy Stewart, but also because no one ever bothered to file the papers to extend the copyright on the movie. The newly-returned owners were thus able to stop any unauthorized … … That meant that in 1974, It’s a Wonderful Life would need renewed protection by its original copyright holders at Republic Pictures (then known as NTA, the National Telefilm Associates). It’s A Wonderful Life holds a special place in American culture, and as I’m sure you know it also holds  a special place in US copyright law. There was no fee, so a lot of stations aired it year after year, and people slowly began liking it. It’s A Wonderful Life did not make a major mark on the box office when it was released and won a single Oscar for its special effects. The Best Things in Life are Free Music by Ray Henderson (as Henderson) Lyrics by Buddy G. DeSylva (as DeSylva) and Lew Brown (as Brown) Get the IMDb App. When it comes to copyright, the story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” is pretty unique. Your email address will not be published. In the scene where the Bailey Building and … I send out an email on book publishing three times a week and publish a fortnightly newsletter about WordPress and related web tech. Copyright law may be a byzantine subject, but in the case of George Bailey, it would prove very significant. Directed by Frank Capras, it’s the timeless tale of a man named George Bailey, played by James Stewart, who hits rock bottom on Christmas Eve and is granted, by his guardian angel, a chance to see what life for his friends and family would be like if he had never been born. But since I don’t have the millions it would cost to argue this in court, it’s a moot point. In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving different James Stewart film, the 1954 movie “Rear Window”. Well, that’s because in 1998 Paramount acquired Spelling Entertainment and its Republic Pictures subsidiary, owner (via prior acquisitions) of the film rights to Philip Van Doren Stern’s 1943 story “The Greatest Gift,” on which the It’s a Wonderful Life screenplay is based. I am not a lawyer. None of that is a criticism of the film it is, in fact, the very reason why this movie is so brilliant. Frank Capra's holiday classic from 1946; original uncut version. When the film later aired on television, Abend sued Stewart and the case reached the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in favor of Abend and upheld the rights the new rightsholder in the work. National Telefilm Associates took over the rights to the film soon thereafter. Those are the broad strokes of this movies history, which can be found in Techdirt, Wikipedia, and elsewhere. The case, Stewart v. Abend, pitted a production company co-owned by James Stewart against a literary agent, heldon Abend, who purchased the rights to many movies and stories, including the rights to “It Had to Be Murder”, a story by Cornell Woolrich, which the film “Rear Window” was based upon. Klikel Christmas Bell Ornament with Angel Wing and Heart Charms - It's A Wonderful Life Bell Ornament- Memorial Gift. The movie, like its protagonist, has certainly had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s clear that Republic Pictures is working to make the most of it. Initially I thought John Hess’s way of speaking might drive me crazy, but his precise delivery is actually appropriate to the legal subject matter. Perhaps the best known film in the genre “Holiday Inn” was released in 1942. Under the US’s old copyright law, a work had to be renewed for a second 28 year term or it fell into the public domain. This movie is in the public domain. This is how the film was played for nearly 20 years and it could have stayed that way forever, if an unrelated copyright case had not changed the course of its history forever. Someone forgot to renew the copyright on It’s A Wonderful Life, and as a result this classic movie was free for any TV channel to broadcast – which they did, time after time after time after time, right up until 1993. There has been a disturbing trend by some copyright owners to assert protection in an element of a public domain work. Required fields are marked *. For Republic Pictures, this was an opportunity to reclaim control of its film. Learn how your comment data is processed. The tale starts with a short story called The Greatest Gift (on which It’s A Wonderful Life is based), and it ends with the copyright for the story trumping the copyright for the movie. It comes to copyright, the Supreme Court ruled on a case different! It hadn ’ t feel the film has slowed to a copyright Snafu before he could ``. 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