Chaplin Copyrights

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gentlemanfarmer
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Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by gentlemanfarmer » Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:28 pm

I'm very new to studying all things film, but one thing that I don't fully understand is how all the Chaplin films made after 1917 are in some sense still copyrighted by the Chaplin Estate. Could someone provide a clear understanding for a neophyte?

Also I was pleased, but very surprised to see The Kid being performed at the new Denver Silent Film Festival with a new Mont Alto score. I thought it was one of the films the estate dictates performance terms of/for, any elucidation would be welcome. I think it's great and congratulations to all involved in launching the new film festival, it looked fantastic!

Many thanks in advance.
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Jim Reid
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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Jim Reid » Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:41 pm

Any film made before 1923 is public domain and can be freely used. The Chaplin Estate does have the original film elements on the First National realeases, including The Kid. If you want to use the prints owned by the estate, you follow their rules. If you are able to find other prints to use, you may do whatever you want with them.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Chris Snowden » Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:49 pm

Actually the Chaplin First Nationals that we're most familiar with are not the 1918-1923 originals, but reconstructions created in the 1940s from the best surviving alternate takes.

Association Chaplin could easily and persuasively argue in court that these are not in the public domain; nor would it hesitate to jump on an unauthorized distributor with both feet.
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Jim Reid
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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Jim Reid » Sat Sep 24, 2011 3:15 pm

I guess I should have said "best" instead of "original" film elements.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by silentmovies742 » Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:33 pm

Chris Snowden wrote:Actually the Chaplin First Nationals that we're most familiar with are not the 1918-1923 originals, but reconstructions created in the 1940s from the best surviving alternate takes.

Association Chaplin could easily and persuasively argue in court that these are not in the public domain; nor would it hesitate to jump on an unauthorized distributor with both feet.
Yes, I think this is very much the case. With regards to The Kid, the version shown now in the main is the re-edit, which I think was done in the early 1970s by Chaplin, if memory serves me correctly. Again, this could be seen as a film made in 1970(ish) rather than 1921.

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Jim Reid
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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Jim Reid » Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:00 pm

I don't think that just a re-edit would make for a valid copyright. Any new elements added could be copyrighted, but I doubt just moving the shots around would count. If you, llike Chaplin made a new edit using second takes, that would be new elements, but what about the original footage still there? Any copyright experts here today?

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by augustinius » Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:03 pm

I think that the question at heart is more like "how is it possible that the First National films are still protected at all by copyright", with the assumption that copyrights have expired on films of a certain age. The short answer is that thanks to Disney, the age was extended (otherwise, with Steamboat Willie going PD, Mickey Mouse would have gone PD as a character). So the laws, in the US at least, still can protect films that old, and indeed several famous studio-made films like Greed are still under copyright protection as far as I know. The A camera vs. C camera versions of the shorts is a whole other ball game, and I am dreaming for a release of the shorts where someone finds vintage prints of the REAL films. If any release exists I would love to know about it, even if it is a small maker.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by rollot24 » Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:08 pm

Jim Reid wrote:I don't think that just a re-edit would make for a valid copyright. Any new elements added could be copyrighted, but I doubt just moving the shots around would count. If you, llike Chaplin made a new edit using second takes, that would be new elements, but what about the original footage still there? Any copyright experts here today?
Didn't it work for Killiam or Rohauer?

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Jim Reid » Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:06 pm

I didn't think the First Nationals were protected by copyright, just the music and new graphics.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Rodney » Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:17 pm

As I've been lead to believe, The Kid is the only Chaplin feature that is available for rescoring, because it was made in 1920. (Well, unless you call Tillie's Punctured Romance a Chaplin feature.) The Gold Rush is in a weird eddy in the space/time continuum and I generally avoid it (though others run it). That said, there are two different cuts of The Kid, one with a bunch of material removed for a release in the 1970s, but as far as I could tell, no change to the titles (or any of the Chaplin/Coogan material). Much of the back-story involving the mother and father is removed, along with some of the melodrama.

I guess I can't promise that they aren't alternate takes, but given that at one point Jackie's hat falls off and is left in the street -- and is back on his head in the next shot -- in both versions, they're likely the same takes.
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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Andrew Greene » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:24 pm

All of Chaplin's films pre-1923 are out of copyright. That being said, unless you had a 16 or 35mm print of the film, you'd have to pay royalties on screening the films for profit from the DVD company.

I actually talked with Association Chaplin about Shoulder Arms, which is one of the (what I like to call) "featurettes" that Chaplin did before the iconic "Gold Rush" or "The Kid". They basically told me I could not use their print that is found on the DVD version, as Chaplin's will stated he only wanted his films shown with his music. However, if I was to find another print of the film that they didn't control, I could go ahead and use it for whatever I wanted.

So for the First Nationals, as long as the film is before 1923, you can screen it by paying royalties to the appropriate party. I however wish the limit was extended to 1925/1926, for both the Gold Rush and The Pilgrim (which has a surprisingly good score for the film).

That's the basic gist of it. So as long as you pay a DVD royalty or have your own print, you can screen a Pre 1923 film of Chaplin's without having to deal with Association Chaplin. Afterwards, you get into a lot of issues..
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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by DShepFilm » Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:30 pm

What has been said above applies to exhibition in the USA.

In Europe (and Berne Convention countries elsewhere) the Chaplin First National films are very much under copyright, as they were simultaneously published under Berne and because of that they are secure until 70 years after Charlie's 1977 demise.

The Chaplin interests have all the documentation and have been successful in court in this matter.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by All Darc » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:39 pm

I believe you also mean alternate negatives, since Chaplin had the practice to shoot films with more than one camera, running at same time.
Why Chaplin prefered to use alternate takes and alternate negatives in 1940? Was the originals lost or too damaged with scratches splices etc ???

Was the original edition, or original editions from USA negatives restored ?

The original silent version of The Gold Rus (1925) was restored by Kevin Brolllow, but he did notr use trhe fine masters of the 1940 version.

I imagine if the original The Kid and Thje Circus, before Chaplin reedit and record soundtracks, still have some copy available. Is the video transfer copyrighted due the tranfer and restoration work?
If colorized movie get new copyrights, why not a well remasted restored film ?

By the way, supose Criterion create a HD transfer form a good rare 35mm master of some silent film before 1923, and digitally restore it to make the far better video presentation the title ever had.
Is the video transfer copyrighted due the tranfer and restoration work?
If colorized movie get new copyrights, why not a well remasted restored film ?

Chris Snowden wrote:Actually the Chaplin First Nationals that we're most familiar with are not the 1918-1923 originals, but reconstructions created in the 1940s from the best surviving alternate takes.

Association Chaplin could easily and persuasively argue in court that these are not in the public domain; nor would it hesitate to jump on an unauthorized distributor with both feet.
Keep thinking...

Image

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Jim Reid » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:05 am

Andrew Greene wrote:All of Chaplin's films pre-1923 are out of copyright. That being said, unless you had a 16 or 35mm print of the film, you'd have to pay royalties on screening the films for profit from the DVD company.

I actually talked with Association Chaplin about Shoulder Arms, which is one of the (what I like to call) "featurettes" that Chaplin did before the iconic "Gold Rush" or "The Kid". They basically told me I could not use their print that is found on the DVD version, as Chaplin's will stated he only wanted his films shown with his music. However, if I was to find another print of the film that they didn't control, I could go ahead and use it for whatever I wanted.
This makes no sense. If the film is public domain they own the elements but not the rights or control over the film itself. As long as you don't use the music on the or new material produced for the DVD, you should be able to use it any way you want.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by augustinius » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:08 am

All Darc wrote:I believe you also mean alternate negatives, since Chaplin had the practice to shoot films with more than one camera, running at same time.
Why Chaplin prefered to use alternate takes and alternate negatives in 1940? Was the originals lost or too damaged with scratches splices etc ???

Was the original edition, or original editions from USA negatives restored ?
By the 1940s Chaplin found that the First National shorts were in terrible condition. The negatives were basically shot, both the A negatives that were used for the US prints and the B negatives for international prints. His solution was to destroy the remnants of the A and B negatives and to get the C and D negatives (i.e. alternate takes of the same scenes, but assuredly NOT the takes used for the original films) and recut the films to match the original edit. So the films have the same scenes, but not the same takes of the same scenes. So when you see the films on the Chapin Revue disc, not only are they stretch printed, but they also aren't even the scenes that 1920s audiences saw (not even on the Image DVD that Shepard produced).

I once read an anecdote from Shepard, speaking of, where he said that he didn't get the enthusiasm of contemporary audiences for Shoulder Arms until one time he was at a European screening and saw a print that brought him to tears -- and it WASN'T the estate cut.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Bob Birchard » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:02 am

The Chaplin films are not made up of alternate takes, per se, but they are also not necessarily what domestic audiences saw on original release. Because of the popularity of his films Chaplin was required to deliver four negatives on his films. In the late 1930s Rollie Totheroh was given the task of making the best version, canibalizing elements from the B, C, and D negatives when necessary. So the footage is not composed of outs, or footage that was never seen--but variant release negatives. Chaplin's print control was pretty thorough. I know of a print of The Kid that was in private hands and a dupe neg on the 1925 Gold Rush (minus the main titles) , and there were apparently rental print of asomewhat shortened Shoulder Arms, and there was an NSG 8mm print of "The Circus" obviously derived from a batterd release print, but nothing else seems to have surfaced that I can recall.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by gentlemanfarmer » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:53 pm

I am glad to be able to read this discussion, it has been very enlightening. Thank you for clearing up many of the issues I was not fully conversant with and making these various distinctions clearer.
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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Robert Moulton » Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:24 am

I've a dim memory of an add in the Blackhawk Bulletin in the 1970s for Chaplin First National films. It was something along the lines of you had to promise to destroy your print after 25 years and send in an affidavit saying it had been done.

What was the reasoning behind that? Surely they must have realized that no one would actually destroy their print.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by silentfilm » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:14 am

I'm sure that Bob Birchard has more information, since he worked for RBC Films at the time. Blackhawk and other distributors leased Super 8mm versions of copyrighted Chaplin films. The 16mm versions could be rented only. He has said that there was a legal requirement with the Chaplin estate that required that the prints be leased instead of sold, but that they never really intended to try to recover the prints after 15 years. I only bought Payday (1922). It was a gorgeous print, but I sold my Super 8mm films about 10 years ago.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Bob Birchard » Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:36 pm

silentfilm wrote:I'm sure that Bob Birchard has more information, since he worked for RBC Films at the time. Blackhawk and other distributors leased Super 8mm versions of copyrighted Chaplin films. The 16mm versions could be rented only. He has said that there was a legal requirement with the Chaplin estate that required that the prints be leased instead of sold, but that they never really intended to try to recover the prints after 15 years. I only bought Payday (1922). It was a gorgeous print, but I sold my Super 8mm films about 10 years ago.

Mo Rothman and Bert Schneider acquired the rights to the Chaplin films for a period of years and were looking to mazimize the retrun on their investment. This was in the days when Super 8mm feature films were "hot" (or at least as hot as they'd ever get), and the decision was made to sell Super 8 prints to collectors. The problem was that the contract with Chaplin strictly prohibited selling prints, but there was language that said (and mind you this was a year or two before Beta and VHS) that "due to the nature of the medium" cassettes could be sold. For a time we considered putting the Chaplin Super 8s out only on Technicolor Super 8mm loop cassttes--which were common in point of purchase displays in retail stores at the time, and would technically pass muster as being "sellable." But it was determined that very few collectors had Technicolor cassette projectors. So he only otion available was a life of print lease.

The idiot lawyer son of a high-priced Beverly Hills entertainment attorney was retained to draft the lease agreement, and he came back with something that was like 10 or 12 pages long. We told him that what was needed was something tht could fit on a coupon. He just didn't get it, so I (who was making about $250 a wek) was tasked with coming up with the lease agreement for this guy (who was making like $250 an hour in those days). I wrote it, he reviewed it, tweaked it a bit (but only so he could justify his billing), and we went with the short form I (largely) created. We tried in every way we could to make it clear that we did not expect the prints to be returned and that a simple statement that the filmhad been destroyed would suffice, but there was a great deal of outrage among collectors. Life of print leases were common for deposit rental libraries and TV stations, but it was a new concept for collectors .

Despite the resistance, we sold . . . er, leased . . . quite a few prints. The ratios were the same as the rentals--Modern Times did the best--probably around 300 prints), Gold Rush, City Lights and The Great Dictator following closely behind, with The Kid, The Circus and the rest probably moving around 100-150 each.

So we did respectable busines, but shortly video tape and cable licensing far outstripped the Super 8 market.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by andybenz » Thu Sep 29, 2011 6:20 pm

Bob Birchard wrote:Chaplin's print control was pretty thorough. I know of a print of The Kid that was in private hands and a dupe neg on the 1925 Gold Rush (minus the main titles) , and there were apparently rental print of asomewhat shortened Shoulder Arms, and there was an NSG 8mm print of "The Circus" obviously derived from a batterd release print, but nothing else seems to have surfaced that I can recall.
I have seen 8mm prints with Spanish titles of some of the First Nationals (A dog's life, Sunnyside, The idle class, Pay day, The pilgrim) that had different cuts or extra scenes compared to the estate versions. Perhaps these were put out by Bouchard in Argentina? In his book "Seductive cinema", James Card mentions a print of "A dog's life" among the films he found in the Eastman theater, Rochester in the 1950s.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by radiotelefonia » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:47 am

andybenz wrote:
Bob Birchard wrote:Chaplin's print control was pretty thorough. I know of a print of The Kid that was in private hands and a dupe neg on the 1925 Gold Rush (minus the main titles) , and there were apparently rental print of asomewhat shortened Shoulder Arms, and there was an NSG 8mm print of "The Circus" obviously derived from a batterd release print, but nothing else seems to have surfaced that I can recall.
I have seen 8mm prints with Spanish titles of some of the First Nationals (A dog's life, Sunnyside, The idle class, Pay day, The pilgrim) that had different cuts or extra scenes compared to the estate versions. Perhaps these were put out by Bouchard in Argentina? In his book "Seductive cinema", James Card mentions a print of "A dog's life" among the films he found in the Eastman theater, Rochester in the 1950s.
No, Bouchard didn't prepare them although he probably has prints. The Chaplin films were originally distributed by Max Glücksmann, until the end of the silent era, and from elements that were preserved it is quite probable that new versions were prepared in the forties and early fifties to be released to theaters. Fernando Martín Peña has such a print for THE KID and I asked him to review it in order to compare it with the conventional Chaplin version.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Steve Pendleton » Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:35 pm

This thread is a good foundation for understanding why George Lucas has been incrementally revising the orginal Star Wars. Separate from the Sonny Bono copyright extension, it's to Lucas' advantage to reset the copyright clock, and the fan's attachment to the true-original film is secondary.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by josemas » Wed Oct 05, 2011 8:04 am

Steve Pendleton wrote:This thread is a good foundation for understanding why George Lucas has been incrementally revising the orginal Star Wars. Separate from the Sonny Bono copyright extension, it's to Lucas' advantage to reset the copyright clock, and the fan's attachment to the true-original film is secondary.
This makes me wonder that if these later Chaplin reissues were composed of different cuts and edits did they constitute a different film and require a separate copyright and if so did Chaplin ever file for a copyright on these re-edits (other than the 1942 re-release of The Gold Rush)? If he didn't apply for a separate copyright then are these re-edits protected by the original copyright?

Curious

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by silentfilm » Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:19 am

Doesn't the 95-year copyright term only apply to works for hire? Since Chaplin produced the United Artists films for himself, isn't the copyright term different, or am I confusing this with European copyright law?

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Steve Pendleton » Sun Oct 09, 2011 12:37 am

>This makes me wonder that if these later Chaplin reissues were composed of different cuts and
>edits did they constitute a different film and require a separate copyright

I'm not an attorney but speculate that the "old" parts of a derivative work keep the "old" publication date while the "new" parts get a "new" date. The degree of difference required to turn "old" into "new" might easily require a court decision instead of date arithmetic. Suppressing the original and generating an ongoing series of revisions could make the expiration date a thorny question until the last version is slam-dunk PD. Prior to that, proving PD for intermediate versions could be complex, expensive, and risky. In practical terms, derivative works could lock up the whole property for a longer time.

/ SRP /

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by Doug Sulpy » Sun Oct 09, 2011 5:57 am

For what I remember, every shot in the "unofficial" "Shoulder Arms" is different from the official version.
The first reel of the "unofficial" "Dog's Life" is the same as the first reel of the official version. After that, however, every shot differs for the rest of the film.
The "unofficial" "Idle Class" was the same as the released version, except for an extra shot of Charlie riding up to the estate on the back of the car (which wasn't in the offical version at all).
The official version of "The Kid" is the same as the original issue, except it's been edited and the original intertitles have been replaced. The titles are different for "Shoulder Arms" and "Dog's Life" as well.

I haven't been able to see copies of the others.

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Re: Chaplin Copyrights

Unread post by JM » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:40 pm

Doug Sulpy wrote:For what I remember, every shot in the "unofficial" "Shoulder Arms" is different from the official version.
The first reel of the "unofficial" "Dog's Life" is the same as the first reel of the official version. After that, however, every shot differs for the rest of the film.
The "unofficial" "Idle Class" was the same as the released version, except for an extra shot of Charlie riding up to the estate on the back of the car (which wasn't in the offical version at all).
The official version of "The Kid" is the same as the original issue, except it's been edited and the original intertitles have been replaced. The titles are different for "Shoulder Arms" and "Dog's Life" as well.

I haven't been able to see copies of the others.
There are also "unofficial" versions of "The Kid" and "Pay Day" that are composed of some different takes from the "official" versions and of some of the same takes--but shot from a different camera angle-- as those in the "official" versions.

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