Being in the public domain refers to cinematic, dramatic, literary, musical and artistic works that no government, organization, or individual owns, and as such is common property. These works are considered part of the public cultural and intellectual heritage of content that is not owned or controlled by anyone and which may be freely used by all. According to Wikipedia: “These materials are public property, and available for anyone to use freely (the “right to copy”) for any purpose. Film copyright involves the copyright status of multiple elements that make up the film. A film can lose its copyright in some of those elements while retaining copyright in other elements.


There are hundreds of movies, cartoons and dozens of television shows that are now in the public domain, which means that they may be shown at public screenings without violating copyright laws. Some of these movies are considered classics such as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 version), Georges Méliès’ (1902) A Trip To The Moon, other historical or commercial film clips, lost or neglected or archived film, etc.

The digitized footage made available to everyone online as well as an exponential increase in production has changed the way people interact with pre-existing material. For filmmakers, designers, photographers, and just about any kind of creatives, the public domain is an important resource, full of copyright-free materials that can be used and remixed to create new art. New meaning is created by editing and arranging or by adding inserts, voice-over or other sound and other materials:


[1] List of films in the public domain in the United States,

[2] Public Domain is an intellectual property designation referring to the body of creative works and knowledge in which no person, government or organization has any proprietary interest such as a copyright. There is no official list when it comes to the question of whether a film is in the public domain. Because a film can incorporate cinematography, drama, literature, music, art, and/or trademark, it is more difficult to determine the public domain status of film than for any other media. Unfortunately, there is no single method for determining if a film, or parts of it, is in the public domain.]

[3] Public domain film,

[4] Best Public domain films,

[5] Public domain films,

[6] Pond5,

[7] The Internet Archive,

[8] Historic Films Stock Footage Library,

[9] Footage Farm,

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