Re: It's a Wonderful Life…was Re: Paul Killiam and Silents Please

From: David P. Hayes
Date: 1997/10/22
Newsgroups: alt.movies.silent

In article <01bcdde5$f5557900$8e3b9bcf@default>,  "mack twamley" <> wrote:
> I'm curious about Wonderful Life being recopyrighted based on music.  Could > you explain please?  I thought the copyright lapsed after 28 years because
> someone forgot to renew the copyright, and that's why the networks glommed
> onto it as a Christmas show for years, because of its p.d. status.  So,
> what's the story on the change in music ??      thanks    mack twamley

You may have noticed that in the last couple of years "It's a Wonderful Life" has been run each year just once, that being on NBC, with no showings on premium cable, AMC, TBS, etc. This is because Republic (formerly named NTA, which bought the neg and rights during the initial 28 years) is asserting that it owns the copyright to the film's music, which was copyrighted separately and was renewed.  Republic could sell NBC an exclusive after "informing" all others that to show the movie without Republic's authorization would be to play the music in violation of copyright.  Some say that Republic is bullying the other outlets, and when Republic went after one of the actors who played one of the Bailey kids in the movie after he used STILLS from the movie in his "It's a Wonderful Life calendar," he has vowed to fight them and to puncture Republic's claims.

Republic's claims about having contracted for the copyright on the music is apparently true, but just what that means is another matter.  If Dimitri Tiomkin signed a contract with Capra/Liberty giving rights to use the music in the film, and if those rights were granted to Capra/Liberty and their successors, it might be argued that the public became a successor once the film as a whole entered the public domain.  What's more, Capra didn't use all that much of what Tiomkin wrote for the film; when reediting of the film made reediting of the music difficult, Capra used RKO stock music in place of some original compositions--so at least some of the music in "It's a Wonderful Life" is not covered.


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