Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Christmas Films Became A Classic Due To A Copyright Filing Error?

Miracle on 34th Street
A Charlie Brown Christmas
It's a Wonderful Life
A Christmas Story

Answer: It’s a Wonderful Life

Released in 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t exactly a box office fire starter. While far from a complete failure, the reaction to the film was lukewarm and it didn’t even recoup the production costs during its initial theatrical run. Today, however, the film is one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time and it enjoys both high praise from high brow film critics and adoration from fans in love with the wholesome holiday theme.

So what changed between the lukewarm audiences of 1946 and today? A minor copyright filing error that had a major effect on the public consumption of the film. The issue was that the copyright of the film was governed by the 1909 Copyright Act, which covers all creative works created before 1964 when further revisions to copyright laws in the U.S. were enacted. Specifically, the terms of copyright under the act allowed for one 28 year period and one renewal period of an additional 28 years. When the copyright for It’s a Wonderful Life came up for renewal in 1974, a clerical mistake led to the failure of renewal and the movie entered the public domain.

Television stations jumped on the opportunity to run a public domain Christmas film around the holidays and the movie went into heavy rotation on many different channels every holiday season. This pattern continued, year after year, until nearly 20 years later when a legal battle over the underlying story (which did not have a lapsed copyright) allowed the then current holder of the intellectual property surrounding the film to take control of it—bringing the run of wall-to-wall It’s a Wonderful Life free airings to a close.

At that point, though, the film was cemented in the minds of millions of Americans as a classic traditional holiday film and it still enjoys regular rotation (albeit with compensation to the copyright holders) every holiday season.

Trivia

Hard

The Ewok Language In Star Wars Is Based On Which Human Languages?

Trivia

Very Hard

Which Object Has The Longest Orbital Period In Our Solar System?

Trivia

Hard

Which Movie Franchise Has The Longest Gap Between The First Release And Sequel?

Trivia

Hard

What Off-The-Shelf Item Did The United States Air Force Build a Supercomputer From?

Trivia

Hard

The Lowest Number Zip Code In The United States Belongs To?

Trivia

Hard

What Do Humans Have That Platypuses Do Not?

Trivia

Very Hard

The First Major U.S. Film Studio To Stop Distributing Movies On Film Was?

Trivia

Hard

Workers In Which Of These Non-Nuclear Industries Are Classified As “Radiation Workers” By The CDC?

Trivia

Easy

How Fast Was The CPU In The Original IBM PC?

Trivia

Hard

Which Famous Silver Screen Duo Had An Adversarial Off-Screen Relationship?