I *think* I read somewhere that Republic's decision to go ahead and try
to uphold their remaining rights to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (by claiming
copyright on the story and the music) was in part based on the successful
lawsuit involving REAR WINDOW where thestate of the author of the
original story claimed it should be receiving royalties.
Further, even though a film may be in the public domain, if it is
broadcast, the various performing right agencies (ASCAP, BMI) must
pay the composer of the music for the right to broadcast the music
(which is governed by laws entirely different from those concerning
theatrical playing of the film).
Just my $.02.
Graduate Center -- Ph.D. Program in Music(student)/ City University of New York
New York Public Library -- Music Division
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Disclaimer: My opinions do not necessarily represent those of my institutions.