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New Digital Collection of Motion Picture Copyright Descriptions

pressbook for The Gold Rush (1925)

Exhibitor’s Campaign Book for Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, registered on 10 September 1925.

One of our very earliest Now See Hear! posts was about our wonderful collection of the copyright descriptions that accompanied films submitted for registration starting in 1912. At the very end we noted “several years ago we digitized many hundreds of the microfilm reels onto which the descriptions were originally transferred, and we’re looking for ways to make those files available online.” And while it may have taken a little longer than expected, we’re pleased to announce that today nearly 6000 descriptions—primarily for films registered between 1917 and 1925—are now available for search and download as a new digital collection.

We’re very excited about this collection, which promises to be a valuable research tool. And it will continue to grow as we fill in gaps and more films come into the public domain. We plan to add many thousands of newly digitized descriptions dating from 1912 in the months to come and once films registered in 1926 enter the public domain on January 1, 2022, we’ll add those descriptions too.

We’ll have another blog post soon about how this all came to be, because it makes for an excellent example of how it takes a village to create a digital collection like this one.

2 Comments

  1. Bob Fells
    September 16, 2021 at 10:27 am

    This is wonderful news and the material will be very helpful to researchers and authors dealing with lost films. Thank you.

  2. Stephen Bottomore
    September 19, 2021 at 11:06 am

    Yes, great news. I already had some idea of the value of these documents, because on visits to the LoC over the years I looked at a few of the early microfilm reels. For some registrations there are just the very basics (eg. a summary of that particular film, sometimes from a journal such as the ‘Edison Kinetogram’) but in other cases there is an actual script. Bizarrely, the first such script that I saw from the ‘L’ class microfilm is for a dental education film, ‘Toothache’. This was made by a dentist called Lyman Zarbaugh, of Toledo Ohio, who was one of the pioneers in using film for health education. I have researched his story and sometime I will write it up, along with that of his counterpart over here in England, George Cunningham, who, at about the same time, was starting to use film for similar purposes.
    So dentists at last get their place in film history!

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