Finding information on copyright holders for films / licensing for release


(autephex) #1

Just wondering if anyone can help me out with some information about tracking down who holds the rights to films and arranging a license for retail release? I’ve been doing some searching and can’t come up with a lot so far.

MGM has a nice licensing site where you can search titles at : http://www.mgmmedialicensing.com/

But for more obscure films I’m having a hard time finding any information. Many of the original releasing companies are defunct and the rights are probably owned by individuals or some other releasing company that bought them.

US copyright records after 1978 can be searched at: http://www.copyright.gov/records/

But that isn’t a lot of help for most of the stuff I am searching for.

Beginning to wonder if most of the US companies releasing spaghettis are actually obtaining release rights, or if they are just putting the films out.


(autephex) #2

Doing some more research and still having a hard time coming up with info/contacts for overseas copyright holders, but did find that the recent Wild East release of Death Rides a Horse was possible because MGM terminated their copyright in 2011. There seems to be a good number of additional spaghettis in the list of terminated copyrights with MGM also…

If I understand this correctly, WE doesn’t actually own releasing rights, they just aren’t violating any US copyrights. Please correct me if anyone knows otherwise, just trying to sort the workings of DVD releasing out for possible ventures…


(Bad Lieutenant) #3

Perhaps useful:
http://homepages.law.asu.edu/~dkarjala/OpposingCopyrightExtension/publicdomain/SearchC-R.html

Good luck with your release! I was thinking about releasing a spaghetti western DVD myself, but I’m doubting whether it’ll be economically viable. A cool thing to do though.


(Jonny Powers) #4

Autephex, what are you thinking of releasing?


(autephex) #5

Thanks Bad Lieutenant… from what I’ve collected, it doesn’t really appear that anything is in the public domain- including most of the cheap/budget DVD releases that claim they are. It just seems that they tend to fly under the radar because they are obscure and the people that actually own the rights either don’t want to bother with legal action or it wouldn’t be worth the cost/effort.

Using the WE DRAH release as example, I’m not sure if they obtained licensing rights from the overseas owner or if they just released because MGM terminated their US copyright and no one else here has rights on it, and no one is going to cause a ruckus about the release. Not trying to make any accusations and would love to know the actual story.

I’ve got some few titles in mind as options, but would of course depend upon sources and legal rights. Right now I’m just in a research stage and trying to find out whether or not it would be possible for me to pursue.

Not really approaching it from wanting to make money, more just something I’ve wanted to do for a long time so starting to look into what would be required.

Since I don’t have any contacts in this world, not exactly easy to jump into.


(Sundance) #6

Where did you get the information that MGM terminated their US rights in 2011? I just don’t believe they would something like this, it just makes no sense. And they have been moving (licensing) the film around a lot in the last 10 years or so I think. (to Sony for example in 2005)

Personally I don’t think WE pays for anything (and they have been caught on that once) but who knows. As far as their DRAH release goes, the disc uses the MGM print, possibly from the Japanese disc (since it doesn’t have the regular pal to ntsc artifacts most of WE’s other releases do), yet MGM is not mentioned anywhere on the disc? If they got MGMs permission I would think MGM would have required their logos and stuff to remain.
Can anybody’s transfers be used as long as you have the film rights? To be honest I don’t know, but supposedly Arrow released the cropped shitty transfer of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (which Storaro prefers) because they just can’t copy the 2.35:1 Blue Underground transfer (BU owns it I guess).

As far as public domain of spaghettis or other Italian stuff. It doesn’t exist. It did for some films but the USA joined Berne convention in 1989 and in 1994 Clinton signed Uruguay Rounds Agreement Act which restores copyright to all foreign works that are still copyrighted in their country of origin. The restoration of copyrights is automatic and happens regardless of whether the work was never copyrighted in the USA or entered public domain because of failure to follow the US copyright laws of the time. And no documents are required at the copyright office so it doesn’t matter if you can’t find a film there. If I remember correctly the copyright owners do need to leave a ‘notice of intent to enforce the restored copyright’ when they want to actually stop someone.

In early 2012 the US Supreme Court ruled (votes went 6-2) in one case (which was filed already back in 2001) that the URAA is valid and the copyrights restored.


(Col. Douglas Mortimer) #7

I think the Long Ride from Hell Code Red episode tells us everything we need to know about Wildeast’s practices. They pay for the print but don’t pay distribution rights. That would be too expensive and they would probably never survive if they had to actually pay rights as well.

The worse case scenario is that the real rights owners call them out on it and they simply take their release off circulation.

Code red actually did have rights to A Long Ride from hell. To wildeast’s credit, Wildeast took their release off and graciously let Code Red have their extras.

I doubt anybody would spend money on costly litigation suing these dvd companies. The profit gained from having distribution rights is probably even less than legal costs. These are obscure films and dvd companies profiting off of obscure films are obviously not profiting enough for real rights owners to care. The damage done is minimal. MGM has bigger fish to fry.

So its basically Wildeast, shout factory/timeless media and other public domain companies have the mentality of:“I’ll release the film fully realizing that its in the gray area of the law and at any given time the real rights owners might emerge, but its highly unlikley they will and therefore I am willing to risk it, and even if they do emerge I’ll just take my release of the market to appease them.”


(autephex) #8

Regarding the DRAH/MGM copyright status, I first found a thread on another internet forum where people were having a discussion about the release and somebody commented that they must just be putting it out without proper rights. Someone else replied, stating they were friends with the WE guy and that they were able to release the DVD because MGM let their copyright expire some years ago. I did a search on the US Govt copyright site, and appears this may be valid (for MGM US)

Date of Recordation: 2011-01-06 Entire Copyright Document: V3604 D907-912 P1-149 Date of Execution: as of 20Dec10; date of cert.: 5Jan11 Title: 1,000 convicts and a woman & 5493 other titles (part 002 of 006) Notes: Termination and release of security interest in copyrights. Party 1: JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA. Party 2: MGM Holdings II, Inc.

The above referenced copyright document lists Death Rides a Horse, among many other films. Its not 100% clear that this list of films is no longer copyrighted by MGM as there is no explanation other than the notes which state “Termination and release of security interest in copyrights.” - I have tried searching the internet for the documents and cannot find anything else about it. I did look up DRAH on the MGM licensing site (linked above) and they do still list the film on their licensing site, so I am not sure what to make of that.

Additionally this list includes several titles that I really cannot believe MGM would let expire, such as the entire Leone catalouge of SWs. However, it is an official list of titles on the government copyright website which does state “Termination and release of security interest in copyrights.”

This, combined with the statement on the mentioned internet thread lead me to believe it is possibly correct.

I tend to agree with you Sundance about WE’s practices. I don’t want to make any baseless accusations, but I did read through some other threads where people were complaining about some budget DVD company copying WE’s transfers of films, which WE was upset about but never took any action on - a sign that either they can’t afford legal action or they didn’t actually have any legal rights to the film. However WE did state directly that they pay for releasing rights and this is why titles go OOP because their license expires.

I’m not sure what to make of it all and would love to hear any input from anyone who does.

But like Sundance has pointed out, the WE releases seem to clearly be copies of past foreign releases, some with the extremely obvious PAL to NTSC transfer artifacts. Whereas a companies like Blue Underground or Grindhouse Releasing are doing actual transfers from master.

I really get the feeling that very few companies are actually obtaining rights or doing real transfers for their releases, and that most are just copying transfers from various sources and releasing under the radar on a small enough scale where they do not attract legal problems from the big guys, and the small guys can’t afford to do anything.

I begin to wonder why there is so much value on retail releases versus fan versions/bootlegs when they are basically the same thing, unless its a company like Blue Underground. And to be honest, I really gotta wonder how a lot of these newer English releases seem to consistently appear right after a fandub pops up…


(ENNIOO) #9

I have become pretty disillusioned by this in recent times have to admit.


(Sundance) #10

MGM was in financial trouble around 2004-05 and again in late 2010 and I’m pretty sure those documents have something to do with that. The company ownership have changed in several ways a couple of times and they even went bankrupt in 2010.
JPMorgan Chase Bank is one of their creditors (and it seems after the 2010 bankruptcy also one of the owners of the company), the security interest could refer as something like maybe they (JPMorgan Chase Bank) would get the copyrights if MGM had failed on something whatever was agreed.

MGM came out of the bankruptcy in late 2010 and then right after JPMorgan relinquishes their security interest in the copyrights listed (MGM holding is listed as party 2 because they own the copyrights and not because they are doing the same thing as JPMorgan). Well, that is my interpretation of the situation.

In 2005 when MGM was in trouble there was also a similar security interest case

Date of Execution: as of 8Apr05; date of cert.: 13Apr05 Title: 10 to midnight & 4933 other titles (part 005 of 026) Notes: Notice of relinquishment of security interest in United States copyrights. Document refers to V3456 P272, recorded 28Jul00 et al. Party 1: Bank of America, NA. Party 2: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. & Orion Pictures Corporation.

And at the same time they made a security interest with JPMorgan

Date of Execution: as of 8Apr05; date of cert.: 14Apr05 Title: 1,000 convicts and a woman & 5073 other titles (part 006 of 025) Notes: Copyright security agreement. Party 1: MGM Holdings II, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., Heritage Entertainment, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Home Entertainment, LLC, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Lion Corporation, Metro-Golwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc., Metro Pictures Corporation Of America, MGM And UA Services Company, MGM Domestic Television Distribution, LLC, MGM Home Entertainment Distribution Corporation, MGM Interactive, Inc., MGM International Television Distribution, Inc., MGM LAPTV, LLC, MGM Lion Prints, LLC, MGM Networks, Inc., MGM North America Holdings, Inc., MGM On Demand, Inc. MGM Television Entertainment, Inc., MGM/UA, Inc., Midnight Blue Productions, Inc., Orion Film Classics Company, Orion Pictures Corporation, Orion Pictures Distribution Corporation, Orion Pictures Library Acquisition Company, Inc., Orion TV Productions, Inc., Pathe Films, Inc., Pathe Releasing Corporation, PFE Library Acquisition Company, Inc., United Artists Corporation, United Artists Films, Inc., United Artists Pictures, Inc. & War At Home Productions, Inc. Party 2: JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA.

AND at the same time MGM also licensed the titles to Sony (who at the time owned part of MGM because of the financial troubles) who actually then went forward and released some of them (like the Sabatas)

Date of Execution: as of 8Apr05 Title: 1,000 convicts and a woman & 4992 other titles (part 006 of 026) Notes: Exclusive copyright license (licensed properties) Party 1: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. Party 2: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.

There are also documents of security interests (regarding DRAH and other titles) from the 90s that are between banks only.
MGM also licensed Death Rides A Horse and several other titles to a Spanish company three months after that JPMorgan document from 2011.

I am certain MGM never gave up any copyrights. There just isn’t any reason to do so (and they could be sold if you had to).

Additionally this list includes several titles that I really cannot believe MGM would let expire, such as the entire Leone catalouge of SWs.

It also lists Death Wish films 2-5 which MGM released last year in the USA on Blu-Ray. And lots of others. Even the James Bond films are there. There is simply no way anybody would let these copyrights expire especially when there is nothing that has to be done to keep them in to the far future (Disney will find a way to extend the times again and again :wink: ). :slight_smile:

EDIT:
http://www.yourdictionary.com/security-interest


:stuck_out_tongue:


(Jonny Powers) #11

Sorry, this might not be the best place for it, but are there any differences in the code red and wild east DVDs of A Long Ride From Hell, or are they just copies of each other?


(autephex) #12

@Sundance - Thanks for clearing all that up. It didn’t really make sense to me because I also noticed all those titles you mentioned, and like you say, there’s no action on MGM’s part required to keep the copyrights active as copyright law would keep them valid for many years without additional payments/paperwork/whatever, and there is absolutely no reason they would just decide to give them up out of the blue. I wasn’t sure what to make of the notes on that document and had also seen the other documents you mentioned, and that they had licensed to Spanish TV after supposedly giving up the rights.

Sorry, this might not be the best place for it, but are there any differences in the code red and wild east DVDs of A Long Ride From Hell, or are they just copies of each other?

I was actually unaware of this situation and don’t know the story. I assume its been discussed on the forum here?


(autephex) #13

I should probably add here that the bit about DRAH copyright in relation to the WE release was just read on an internet forum, and I don’t know the legitimacy of the claim (in relation to anything WE has stated about it). Its certainly possible that WE did obtain a license to release from MGM, as I believe some other distributors are doing with similar genre titles.


(Col. Douglas Mortimer) #14

Jonny in regards to your question,

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film3/dvd_reviews53/a_long_ride_from_hell.htm

The Code Red is anamorphic, the WE is not. Also the WE is pal converted. So the Code Red is superior. The extras are the same I think. Both seem to be OOP though.


(Jonny Powers) #15

[quote=“Col. Douglas Mortimer, post:14, topic:3253”]Jonny in regards to your question,

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film3/dvd_reviews53/a_long_ride_from_hell.htm

The Code Red is anamorphic, the WE is not. Also the WE is pal converted. So the Code Red is superior. The extras are the same I think. Both seem to be OOP though.[/quote]

Ah, all right, thank you! I’m making a personal list of DVD’s and such and stumbling across this on Amazon and here got me curious. I do have to say, the Code Red disc is cheaper on Amazon, but still expensive :stuck_out_tongue:


(the_ugly) #16

There is a German DVD w/English of Long Ride From Hell available. It goes under a Django title. Search Django Steve Reeves at amazon.de.

But don’t buy em all cause I still want to get it eventually :wink:

Regarding releasing DVD’s, I would love to do something like that, but I think a grasp of Italian might be necessary to find the masters to even find out how financially viable such a thing would be.

I would also love to do Spaghetti Western nights at local cinemas, but where would I get the prints of these films from?


(Jonny Powers) #17

Haha! Well, I’ll have to look into that, but I’ll still keep my eyes peeled on Ebay! Besides, I’ve got some essential DVDs I still need to snatch up (Massacre Time, Minnesota Clay, etc).


(autephex) #18

Film prints are listed somewhat regularly, although in low numbers, through ebay sellers in US, Germany, Italy, Australia, and probably other countries

I’ve recently seen prints of It Can Be Done Amigo, A Minute To Pray A Second To Die, Johnny Hamlet, and more

Although many times they are 16mm and not the 35mm, but the 35mm prints are sold

Finding masters/negatives will probably be difficult and expensive, but for some rare titles that haven’t seen a release beyond really bad VHS, I’d be satisfied with a good quality film print as they can look quite nice in relative comparison