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Public Domain Question

Robert asks…

What can you do with public domain works?

I’m in a band and we’d like to use some audio samples from old radio shows, movies, etc in our recordings and live performances. I understand that many of these exist in the public domain and intend to be careful that the samples I use come from public domain works.

If a radio program is in the public domain, can I do whatever I want with it? Or are there still legal limitations as to how I can use/sell it?

scottparat answers:

If It’s genuinely public domain, then you are OK, this will generally be because of the age of the recording. However, don’t confuse public domain with ‘royalty-free’ as there are often restrictions for using royalty free for commercial purposes.

Laura asks…

If a movie is in the public domain, can I create and publish my film poster illustrations of it legally?

Hi, I’d like to illustrate some film posters to build my illustration portfolio. However, I’m unclear about copyright restrictions with regard to this. Is it ok to create and publish film posters to my portfolio site as long as I don’t make money from them? Am I restricted to creating posters for films in the public domain?

If the latter is true, I’d be grateful if anyone could suggest some good recognisable movies in the public domain :) thanks!

scottparat answers:

The fact that a copyrighted work has expired and thus entered the public domain is no guarantee that all of its trademark value has also been abandoned, i.e., the names of things.

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