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

From: David P. Hayes
Date: 1997/10/25
Newsgroups: alt.movies.silent, rec.arts.movies.past-films

In article <>,
> ChaneyFan:
> > Someone else asked about the Dmitri Tiomkin score.  Since this was written for
> >  the film, and not copyrighted separately, the Tiomkin score is p.d.  The part
> >  that is copyrighted is the "Buffalo Gal" song which Tiomkin incorporates
> >  throughout the film, so those parts of the score are protected by copyright.
> >  This, and only this, is what establishes the legitimate copyright of the film.

Robert Birchard <> wrote:
>      Unless there was some time limit on the synch rights, the use of
> the song in the film ought not to have any effect on the overall public
> domain status and airing the picture on TV (with blanket music
> clearances) should be okay--But does anyone really want to fight a major
> corporation like Republic over the issue?

I'm the one who brought up Dimitri Tiomkin's score for "It's a Wonderful Life" as the basis of Republic's contention that they have some copyright claim on the movie.  (If someone "asked about" the score, it wasn't me, as I related the facts as I understood them without posing a question.)

I have heard about Tiomkin's separate copyright on his music in conversation with an authority on movie copyrights and in several newspaper accounts of the lawsuit-threats situation.  I can't claim to have actually looked at the copyright entries for a music registration, although there were other instances (albeit relatively few) in the 1940s of a separate music copyright.

As I stated in my previous posting (available via View Thread or Author Profile), the separate copyright wouldn't necessarily preclude public-domain-acquirers of the film from retaining the song if the music sale to Capra/Liberty granted rights to the music in perpetuity for use in the film (separate performance is a different matter) to the studio and its successors.  Bob Birchard is saying a similar thing here.

Republic is the current name of the outfit that used to be called National Telefilm Associates (NTA), and before that, U.M.& M. TV.  I don't know the specifics of their acquiring "It's a Wonderful Life," but they did have it in the mid-and late-1970s, it's been reported that they were the ones to drop the ball on renewing the copyright (in 1974), and they did make a practice of acquiring the rights to independently-produced films (e.g. the John Garfield "Body and Soul," made by Enterprise the same year as "Wonderful Life;" that copyright was renewed).


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