Is there a copyright database?
October 31, 2004 2:44 PM   Subscribe

How do you figure out who owns the rights to something? Specifically, I want to know who owns the rights to an old movie ("Dead of Night"). But I thought it might be useful to open the question up a bit more. Are there good databases out there where I can look up a book, song, movie, or whatever and find out if it's public domain or owned by someone -- and, if so, who owns it?
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
For music, you can check ASCAP's ACE database or BMI's Repertoire.
posted by ba at 3:13 PM on October 31, 2004

For writers and artists, try The WATCH File -- Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders.
posted by initapplette at 3:30 PM on October 31, 2004

This might help with books, if there's no copyright info on it.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:31 PM on October 31, 2004

ASCAP and BMI only cover the underlying compositons, not sound recordings, and the information is not always accurate. You can also search the Copyright Office database for ownership and transfer info. Unfortuantely the Copyright Office database is nowhere near as helpful as the Patent and Trademark Office database. This issue is one that people who are into copyright policy talk about a lot. It can be very very frustrating and scary (in a liability sort of way) trying to track down rights holders. Quite frankly, the system is broken. We really need statutory licensing for works with unknown rights holders.
posted by anathema at 4:26 PM on October 31, 2004

Making this particular work even harder to track is the fact that it was produced in the UK. It had domestic distro but who knows about other rights either licensed or transfered. My suggestion would be to start by contacting the distributor and working backwards. Be warned, this could be a long process.
posted by anathema at 4:35 PM on October 31, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, anathema, but how do I found out the name of the distributor? You'd think IMDB would be helpful with this info, but I can't find anything.
posted by grumblebee at 4:59 PM on October 31, 2004

I see that Anchor Bay released the DVD, and they did some restoration work on it (so I'm guessing that it's probably not public domain.) Perhaps try calling them?
posted by Vidiot at 5:01 PM on October 31, 2004

Could you contact one of the distributors listed on the company credits page on the IMDB?
posted by bcwinters at 6:01 PM on October 31, 2004

Start using it illegally and see who sues you.
posted by geoff. at 6:11 PM on October 31, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, bcwinters. I didn't know you could get that info on imdb.
posted by grumblebee at 6:23 PM on October 31, 2004

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