Web Series World News: Public Domain Art


(Stareable) #1

Welcome to Web Series World News, where we as a community discuss current events in the digital and TV worlds! Today’s topic:

Public domain adaptations

In January 2019, copyrights will expire for 35 silent films by Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton, and more, in the largest collection of art becoming public domain since 1998.

charlie chaplin hat GIF-downsized

Public domain art adaptations in web series is a common trend, so what’s your opinion? Have you made an adaptation, are you planning on it, and why or why not? What are the benefits of adaptations? And specific to this piece of news, what are some creative things you can do now that all these silent films will be public domain and free for you to use in your own art?


(Bri Castellini) #2

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(William E. Spear) #3

Public domain work is a rich vein with potential obstacles. On one hand, the works have a built-in audience which might be tapped. On the other hand, audiences tend to have preconceived biases (better word?) which might inhibit the new work from gaining full appreciation. As an example, I adapted Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL and wrote it as a contemporary story with a female lead who ran her own investment firm on the verge of a merger which would make her the largest such firm in the world, married, and with kids. I was told by an audience member I couldn’t do that because Dickens wrote the original Scrooge as a male. Despite the criticism, it remains one of my favorite pieces.


(Bri Castellini) #4

Yeah I think there’s definitely something in being able to say “hey you like this [popular media]? Well I’m doing a slightly different version of that! Check it out!” but also something scary about doing it “wrong” (even though that doesn’t mean anything).

Any thoughts on what you could do with a Charlie Chaplin or silent film once it goes public domain?


(Aubrey Johnson) #5

I think that silent films could be a fantastic opportunity to adapt the story line for the casting deaf actors!!


(Bri Castellini) #6

Oooooo. Expand! I wanna know more! (I almost said “hear more” and realized that perhaps that wasn’t the best way to put it)


(William E. Spear) #7

In terms of using the films, it would depend upon the story. However, consider putting a contemporary character into one of Chaplin’s films. Building on Aubrey’s post, what if a signing character was frustrated with not fully communicationg in modern times (pun intended) and wished to be in a world without sound. Or a speaking character wanted to experience a friend’s silent world and jumped into a Chaplin film. Or put Chaplin into a contemporary setting. Hope that helps.


(Erik Urtz) #8

You should be aware that just because something is in the public domain it doesn’t mean it can’t also be claimed as owned by someone else. A typical example of this would be and old piece of classical music. The music itself is in the public domain but the specific performance or recording may be owned by someone else.

I have a flagged video on my channel where I used a very old musical recording that is being distributed in a compilation of old music by some company. I’m not entirely sure of the legality of this, since youtube’s implementation of the DMCA is rather draconian.


(Bri Castellini) #9

Ooo that’s a good point- thanks, Erik!


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #10

Based on what Erik said that is a lot of the reason I do not use public domain works. There is a lot of gray area. For example, the Happy Birthday tune is in the public domain but someone owns the lyrics. How that exactly works I’m not sure, but better safe than sorry.