“WAS ALL THIS LEGAL?!”

In order to create the cinema scene, Jannath and I had the right location, props such as popcorn and popcorn boxes, and the right lighting thanks to a projector. But there’s something missing from this that would sell the scene – sound. A film is supposed to be shown right in front of Peter’s eyes. Recording the audio from the movie on set along with the dialogue would just be impractical, lack quality and undoubtedly ruin continuity. In the editing process it would be a nightmare.

Film poster for Night of the Living Dead.

Film poster for Night of the Living Dead.

However, I realised the best way to execute shooting the scene would be adding the film soundtrack later on Final Cut Pro. I could have used a soundtrack from my past films or possibly shot an entirely new audio track to place over but in my research I found an opening I could not refuse. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead served to create the old-fashioned atmosphere I wanted for the cinema which would be violently interrupted by and contrast with the youths.

But was this legal? In a short answer: yes. The 1968 film, and its soundtrack, has entered the public domain due to an “error by the distributor”. When the film was released, US copyright law required copyright ownership to be displayed on the actual print of a film (e.g. in the credits). Early prints of Night of the Living Dead had the title Night of the Flesh Eaters, under which was the copyright information. When the title was changed for theatrical release, the distributors apparently failed to include the copyright information – leaving the film uncopyrighted and in the public domain. So it was that the distributors received all the profit from the film, and Romero never made a penny from it. This also explains why there are so many different VHS and DVD recordings (mostly of poor quality) available today. Anyone is allowed to make and distribute a copy.

This all means I am free to use the film as I please and even add it into my own movie, which is exactly what I’ve done in Screen Three. Anyone interested in watching the film, click the link below – it’s legal!

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