Do you have a list of films and television programs in the public domain?

The Moving Image Research Center does not maintain a list of public domain films  or television programs in our moving image collections.

The term of copyright varies depending on the facts of registration and renewal, with most being protected for 95 years. The term of copyright was changed from 75 to 95 years in 1998. Please note, that as of January 1, 2020, films produced prior to 1925 are now in the public domain.

All records of ownership are held in the Copyright Office. For information regarding the copyright status of a title, please contact the Records Research and Certification Section of the Copyright Office:

United States Copyright Office
Records Research and Certification Section
P.O. Box 70400
Washington DC 20559-0400
Phone: (202) 707-6787
Fax: (202) 252-3519
Email: copysearch@copyright.gov
Website: https://www.copyright.gov/rrc/

The following information may also be helpful:

Copyright Basics
https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work
https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ22.pdf

There are books that claim to list films in the public domain, but the information contained in these books should only be used as a preliminary source of information:

FILM SUPERLIST: MOTION PICTURES IN THE U.S. PUBLIC DOMAIN. Created by Walter E. Hurst; updated edition by D. Richard Baer. Hollywood, Calif.: Hollywood Film Archive, 1992-1994. (Three volumes to date, covering 50,000 films from the years 1894-1939, 1940-49, and 1950-59)

MOTION PICTURE COPYRIGHTS & RENEWALS 1950-1959 by David Pierce. Laurel, MD: Milestone, 1989.

Even when the above books do not list renewal information, you should always contact the Copyright Office to verify the copyright status.
 

 


Last Updated: Jun 04, 2020
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We cannot provide subject research for stock footage or copying of most of the films and videos in our collection.

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Please send written correspondence to:

Moving Image Research Center
101 Independence Ave. SE
James Madison Building, LM 336
Washington, D.C. 20540-4690