A good while back there >was< some discussion on p.d. reference sources,
out of which two specific print sources emerged:
1. Film Superlist (1894-1939, 1940-1949, 1950-1959): Motion Pictures in the
U.S. Public Domain. These are three publications (each title having one of
those year-sets included in it) from Hollywood Film Archives, and all are
listed in Books in Print. Rather expensive. I've never seen let alone had
access to them, though I think someone in this discussion group indicated
that they had one or more of these Superlists.
2. Motion Picture Copyrights and Renewals, 1950-1959, by David Pierce. This is
a more inexpensive publication, which I first reported on. Basically, the bulk
of the book is a reprint of the Library of Congress publication "Catalog of
Copyright Entries: Motion Pictures, 1950-1959," with annotations on entries for
films and shorts (mainly from this decade) that have had copyright renewals...
making the unannotated entries--i.e., the public domain candidates--simple to
spot. As usual, the author indicates that his work isn't definitive, but
gives you a good start in pursuing which films are most likely to be p.d. There
are always the complications of underlying rights for stories, separate music
score or song rights, multiple registrations for the same or similar works--
hence the caution.
I don't know whether anyone has mentioned a p.d.-related database, but I'd
certainly be glad to learn of its existence.
BTW, if you have any specific p.d. queries that might fall within the period of
the Pierce book, I'd be glad to check them out for you.
James Madison University
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