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Hi, I am working on a documentary about stop motion animation for a college project. This project will be pitched to PBS. I want to show the history of stop motion up until now. I was wondering if anyone knows of any classic stop motion films that now belong in the public domain? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks, Austin

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Some of the really old stuff like Ladislaw Starewitz's insect animations might be.  I know there are a few silent films from the 20s running out of copyright each year, I'm not sure what year we are up to.

Open Culture has lists of free movies on the web, mostly where the copyright has expired (due to time, or because the rights holders didn't bother to renew copyright). But you would still need to check.  https://www.openculture.com/freemoviesonline   Scroll a long way down to find Free Animated Films.

Tubi, a steaming service mostly consisting of stuff with no commercial value, has Harryhausen's 20 Million Miles to Earth, which MIGHT mean it has been allowed to go out of copyright, but I can't be sure.  It might just be that, as a 50's black-and-white, it was cheap enough for them to license.

Limiting your footage to public domain films would be very restricting - you would at least need to show some still images of important landmark films in the history, and talk about them, and not just ignore them.  

I know Jim Danforth had lot of trouble getting still images cleared by the studios to include in his CD ROM autobiography - they were of shots he worked on, but he didn't own the footage or publicity stills.

I thinks it's like 75 years after the creators death that's what my art teacher me when I was younger wether she knew what she was talking up to debate but i think that's generally the time frame to look for

I googled.  In the US, it is 70 years after the author dies for works published after 1978.  But for works published earlier, it is longer - usually 95 years from the date of publication.

https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-duration.html

That would mean we are up to 1926 for films coming out of copyright due to age.

The other thing to consider might be, what is covered by "Fair Use"?  That is where you can briefly quote a work for the purpose of reviewing it - but I don't know how that applies to film footage.  For a college project, you would probably be ok, but as you know, public broadcast is a different thing.  

If it was me, I would look at doing the best doco possible to submit to college.  Then worry about how much you can use if you pitch a version to PBS, how you can change it, and if it still looks viable.

Thank you so much! I will look over all this.  I have found that the old fairy tales Ray Harryhausen worked on seem to be public domain. Also some early stop motion from the early 1900's. I have even found that a couple classic Gumby episodes fell into public domain as well. I think there should be enough to at least help get the idea across. Thanks again!

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