Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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808.8 (E) Colorized Motion Pictures

808.8 (E) Colorized Motion Pictures

In 1987 the U.S. Copyright Office concluded that “some computer-colorized films may contain sufficient original authorship to justify registration,” and that the “general standard for determining whether the color added to a black and white motion picture is sufficient to merit copyright protection is the statutory standard that already applies to all derivative works.” Copyright Registration for Colorized Versions of Black and White Motion Pictures, 52 Fed. Reg. 23,443, 23,446 (June 22, 1987). Factors to consider in determining whether the authorship in a colorized film is copyrightable include:

• Whether numerous color sections were made by a human author from a wide selection of colors;

• Whether the colorization applied to the black and white film represents more than a trivial amount of creative authorship; and

• Whether the overall appearance of the preexisting black and white film has been modified by the colorization.

The applicant may use the following terms to assert a claim in a colorized film:

• Colorization.

• Colorized version.

• Selection, coordination, and fixation of colors to create a colorized version of the Motion Picture.

The applicant should give the authorship, ownership, creation, and publication information for the colorized film, and the preexisting black and white motion picture should be excluded from the claim.

When the Office registers a claim in colorization, the registration only extends to the new material, “that is, the numerous selections of color that are added to the original black and white film.” Copyright Registration for Colorized Versions of Black and White Motion Pictures, 52 Fed. Reg. at 23,446.

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