CS70 wrote:Hm don't think there was any disinformation.. if it's a new reworked version of a work, it's no longer what is in the public domain - that is the original! Don't think many would think otherwise.
Unfortunately, they do! Many punters imagine that if they find a copy of a Chaplin film where the original was made in the 1920s, that copy they found somewhere must be in the public domain - it is not! It is a copy and as such is almost certainly watermarked and processed.
Old films will be put through a digital wetgate and the edits will be reworked and the timing altered and generally cleaned up. That revised version now has fresh copyright.
If push comes to shove and it ends up in court, the defendant will have to prove that they had access to the original or at least a copy that is out of copyright. The plaintiff merely has to show that in all probability, the defendant used a more recent copy for which the plaintiff owns the IP.
CS70 wrote:The websites listed by Martin appear to do just that: they transfer old film to digital format and provide the result free of charge.
It is proving that in all probability that is what was used that is the problem!
Leo Kirch bought up all the copyrights to nearly all Laurel & Hardy films back when they were still in copyright. He also made sure that there were as few 35mm copies of the films knocking about as possible by buying them up as well. He then had the originals lovingly restored and allowed a very few shorts to be broadcast to cover his costs. Yes, there are grot-versions with scratches and noise all over the place but these are taken from old 8mm and 16mm reels that were sold to the public and to film clubs after the war.
Today if you could find a 35mm original and get it cleaned up at your cost (or find a kind soul with a Cintel machine that does this for you) then you are good to go and you can safely ignore that 'cease and desist' letter!