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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.

Copyright Breakdown: The Music Modernization Act

Reference librarians in the Recorded Sound and Moving Image Research Centers get hundreds of questions each year about materials in the public domain. For films, which follow the current 95-year restrictions along with many other types of publications, the answer is fairly straightforward: if it was published before January 1, 1924 (as of January 1, […]

Welcoming Two “New” Films to the Public Domain

Yesterday was a pretty momentous day in America, and not just because so many of us got a head start on breaking New Year’s resolutions. It also was a significant milestone in the history of intellectual property rights for a variety of expressive works, including motion pictures. Put simply, motion pictures with renewed copyrights published […]

Now Playing at the Packard Campus Theater (September 9-10, 2016)

The following is a guest post by Jenny Paxson, an Administrative Assistant at the Packard Campus. Friday, September 9 (7:30 p.m.)—SOLD OUT!!! The Malpass Brothers Live in Concert Christopher and Taylor Malpass’s smooth vocal blend and skillful musicianship layer infectiously into the deep respect they pay to legends who have paved the way. The Malpass […]

Gay Cinema/Lost Cinema: “Children of Loneliness” (1935)

Last year the Library published The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912-1929, a sobering reminder of the astonishingly poor survival rate of this one sliver of motion picture history. And it’s not just silent features either. Although no comprehensive study has been done of shorts, features, and documentaries across all of film history, the […]

Robin Williams

There’s lots of reminiscing in the Moving Image Section today about Robin Williams. My younger colleagues first remember him from Aladdin (1992) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), for others it was his Eighties films Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) and Dead Poets Society (1989), and for folks of my generation, he’ll always be a little bit Mork. […]

Heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!

Last week my colleague Daniel Blazek told the interesting story of how the Library came to acquire audio transcription discs of 1960s-era Tonight Show broadcasts via the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. Of course, the very existence of these discs is, to say the least, unexpected—record discs of TV show audio?—and given the preservation […]

Remembering Ann B. Davis

Like a lot of boomers, The Brady Bunch (ABC, 1969-1974) was a beloved television show of my early youth. It was easy to envy the Bradys. They lived in a large, airy house with a big kitchen, a magnificent open staircase, and, especially, a yard made out of artificial turf. Occasionally a celebrity like Joe […]

Where It All Began: The Paper Print Collection

The Library’s moving image collections began with a bureaucratic decision. In August 1893, an unnamed employee (but most likely W.K.L. Dickson) of the Thomas Edison Laboratories in West Orange, NJ, where work had been going on for several years to develop motion picture photography, sent sequential frames from various camera tests to the Copyright Office. […]