BYU film competition celebrates copyright expiration

BYU hosts film competition in celebration of the release of more than 50,000 works from copyright. (Lexie Flickinger)

BYU celebrated the copyright expiration of over 50,000 creative works from 1928 by hosting a Public Domain Film Festival competition Jan. 24.

This film competition gave students 48 hours to incorporate one or more of these newly free-for-use works into a short film that was shown in the HBLL auditorium during the competition.

Many classic works from creators such as Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling and Charlie Chaplin, became free of copyright on Jan. 1.

“Whether (students are) going into film or journalism or publishing or wherever, there’s a good chance that copyright will have some impact on what they’re doing,” said BYU Copyright Licensing Office Director Peter Midgley.

Consequently, Midgley said the office is always looking for more opportunities to bring attention to copyright. The opportunity presented itself this year when a flood of creative works from 1928 became part of the public domain.

This much work hasn’t been released into the public domain for over two decades, but according to Midgley, the drought has officially ended. From now on, a large body of creative works will enter the public domain each year as their copyrights expire. Midgley feels this change is long overdue.

“I think a lot of people are feeling like it was unfortunate that we were stalled for so long and that young creators, like these students, weren’t getting new access to new works on a rolling basis,” Midgley said.

The 48-hour film competition was created to educate students about the new additions to the public domain and give them an opportunity to interact with those works.

BYU film program graduate Sydney McMaster, a member of one of the teams in the competition, said getting the opportunity to handle someone else’s work helps to improve your own.

“When you have the ability to use (someone else’s art), it’s like a collaboration with that person; you enhance your work,” McCaster said. “But if everyone greedily keeps their own stuff, nothing’s being exchanged. Nothing’s moving forward or progressing.”

Nathan Young, the winner of the competition, based his film on H.P. Lovecraft’s “Hypnose.”

“Lovecraft’s writings were always some that I took little bits from, and this time I could take larger chunks, just lift straight off of his pages,” Young said.

This level of intimate interaction with creative pieces will only increase as more works lose their copyright protection after decades of extremely limited additions to the public domain.

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