Archive | January, 2014
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Celebrating One Year Online

18 Jan

Celebrating One Year Online

Thank you to everyone of you who continue to support this blog and the book series. Now let’s see where this bright new year will take us.

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The Neptune City-Saturn Town Review #10

1 Jan

One of America’s most beloved Christmas films is, without a shadow of doubt, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (a uniquely creative and fun 1964 children’s film which is also a special source of pride for my fellow New Jerseyans due to the acting debut of our very own Pia Zadora).     

It has always been a dependable staple of public domain discount DVDs across the nation (and before that, video tapes); and has been played virtually anywhere and everywhere across the broad spectrum of television channels over the years (I even had the good fortune to watch it on TV this New Year’s Eve).

All of this exposure continues to increase its popularity here in the States, introducing new generations to this gem from the bygone kiddie matinee days of the 1950’s and 60’s; allowing it to enjoy a longevity which scholarly authorities like Turner Classic Movies attribute in large part to its indisputable public domain status (fostering its unrestrained proliferation across media channels). 

You can imagine my surprise, given all of these facts, when I recently discovered that the website “Internet Archive” lists, as a notice affixed to their upload of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” that the film might be owned by a certain French firm in some nations outside of the United States of America!

I do not think this could be accurate. It must be an unfortunate error of some kind.  
 
I would like to herein offer my personal understanding of the situation to assist in the clarification of this strange notice. It is only an opinion, but one grounded in study.
 
Because “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” was released by Embassy Pictures in 1964 without bearing the requisite copyright notice needed for the period, this film was automatically relinquished to the public domain at the time of publication, pursuant to U.S. law (causing all rights connected with “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” to be transferred to the American people perpetually).
 
Because the laws governing proper copyright procedures within the United States have always been clear and accessible, and because the need to display proper copyright notice to secure a copyright for “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” was common knowledge to all at the time of publication, Embassy Pictures’ conscious choice to distribute their film without said copyright notice can be interpreted as Embassy intentionally releasing the work into the public domain upon publication in 1964. 
 
Once an American work is in public domain within the United States (the country of origin for “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”), it is no longer the property of the author (Embassy). While a certain French firm purchased the rights to most or all of Embassy Pictures’ film library at a much later date, this transaction could not legally include any films previously vested in the public domain (which, under the laws of the United States of America, would not be Embassy’s to sell–belonging instead to the American people).
 
If it had been a question of failure to renew the copyright of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” after a certain French firm’s acquisition of the Embassy film library, then there could be room for different copyright statuses governing “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” abroad. However, it appears that this film was in public domain decades before a certain French firm’s involvement. There should be no discrepancy concerning the rights.     
 
It is possible that our certain French firm, if they have actually ever sought to claim ownership abroad, is unaware of the above facts. Perhaps there are many films which they were led to believe that they had purchased over the years, but which were actually in the public domain (and thus not purchasable). I can only imagine how many firms are taken advantage of when seeking to secure copyrights for properties which may or may not even exist (look at the recent and heated legal accusations concerning the song “Happy Birthday,” for example).
 
What this certain French firm can own copyrights to are new editions of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” which they might produce (such as restored editions, etc). It is important to note that these rights would only be constrained to the specific edition which they would offer.
 
These are only my personal opinions concerning the copyright status of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” as I understand it to be. It would certainly be a strange and unique anomaly for American public domain works to now be sold to companies overseas. It is illogical, as Mr. Spock would sum up.   

Perhaps it will be the stuff of a future Supreme Court case? Only time will tell.  

Well, that’s all for now, and remember: “Freedom is Ink on the Page” 

Happy New Year-2014!