Assuming copyright laws don’t change by then, otherwise there is no way to know.

A plausible answer is 1977 (when the film was released as Star Wars) + 95 years (for pre-1978 works) = after 2072. However, the film had been edited by George Lucas for the 1997 “Special Edition” release. Does this mean that I cannot publicly play the Special Edition VHS tape I have at home in 2073 and have to wait until 2093, or perhaps 70 years after GL’s death?

George Lucas has been infamously attempting to erase copies of the original movie. Therefore, no HD home video release for the 1977 film exists, however, a fan effort known as the “Despecialized Edition” compiled different versions of the movie from various sources, patching the Special Edition 4K Blu-ray rip to try to replicate the original 1977 experience. Does this legally questionable version enter public domain in 2072, or does this only apply to official (SD) releases?

Anyway, the Despecialized Edition project as well as George Lucas’s treatment of the originals is an interesting rabbit hole to delve into for any movie nerd.

  • @[email protected]
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    3 months ago

    Attorney here.

    The original version of A New Hope should enter the public domain in 2072.

    The Special Edition of A New Hope should enter the public domain in 2092.

    The despecialized edition uses work from the special edition and would not be legally distributable until at least 2092. But as to your question on resolution, I do not believe copyright law would differentiate between a work bases solely on the published resolution. As the other comment suggests, A high res scan of the original A New Hope, if it exists, would be in the public domain in 2072.

    • @RightHandOfIkaros
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      203 months ago

      This is assuming Disney doesn’t mess with the laws again, for like, the tenth time.

      • @[email protected]OP
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        3 months ago

        First sentence of my post, for this very reason – they own the franchise, after all. The law may also change the other way but that’s very unlikely to happen in the US within 50 years.

        I wonder if they could develop a system of draconian DRM (only their own theatres with metal detectors, personalized online streams…) and mildly edit movies every few decades so that they can destroy the original and effectively renew copyright. The gaming industry’s always-online DRM makes nuking a release possible but copyright lasts for about 20 console generations (we’ve only had 8 so far!) so they don’t even have to do that.

      • @[email protected]
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        53 months ago

        They already lost control of Steamboat Willie. The limits of copyright have been reached. Disney even tried to leverage trademark by putting Steamboat Willie as the Disney logo at the beginning of all their movies. There is a limit to their ability to bend the law in their favor before reason takes over.

      • 50gp
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        43 months ago

        it would be quite hard to justify increasing it for even longer duration when all adults who saw the original release will be dead by the time copyright expires already

        • @RightHandOfIkaros
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          123 months ago

          Disney has already ruined US copyright laws multiple times, I wouldn’t put it past them to try again.

    • @[email protected]OP
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      3 months ago

      Interesting… Too bad a right-holder can do minor edits to their work and effectively extend copyright (which is already very long in my opinion) if they nuke the previous version. Lucas was surprisingly successful at that, and I think game studios or other creators could do that today too with their aggressive DRM tactics.

      • @[email protected]
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        13 months ago

        I think this is why our rights for preservation of the media we own under the dmca is so important. Needs to be expanded on even.

  • @Alexstarfire
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    323 months ago

    Kinda weird that I was born about a decade after the release of that movie and have a very good chance of being dead before it goes into public domain. Seems ridiculous.

  • @[email protected]
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    There is another fan project called “4K77”, which also attempts to restore the original version of Star Wars. They somehow managed to get their hands on the original film reels, and scanned them digitally in 4K. It looks very grainy, but this is to preserve the original experience of watching the film in theaters in 1977.

    So if you want a modern-looking and cleaned-up version of the original “New Hope”, then watch Harmy’s Despecialized Edition (keep in mind it’s only 720p). If you want the genuine '70s theater experience with the film grain and everything, watch 4K77.

    • Davel23
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      163 months ago

      There is also a release of 4K77 that they ran through a digital noise reduction filter, if the grain bothers you that much.

    • SanguinePar
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      43 months ago

      Ooh, I didn’t know about the 4K77 version, that sounds great.

  • @[email protected]
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    103 months ago

    The despecialized edition uses a ton of cleaned up shots that don’t change in a story sense but have grain and wires and other compositing errors cleaned up. These are new works. Even the VHS release and any HD releases could be considered new works as the colour and sound would have been tweaked for each format. The best thing to do would be to find an original film print and have it scanned. Anything else would push the clock back.

    • @[email protected]OP
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      33 months ago

      find an original film print and have it scanned

      The 4K77 project did just that, scan and color correction to reverse fading, and effectively no other processing so they cannot claim copyright. Arguably, Harmy’s Despecialized Edition cannot either, even if the original becomes public domain, as it could be argued that their effort only served a technical purpose. I don’t think you can scan, upscale and denoise Steamboat Willie (Walt Disney, 1928) and claim copyright on that even if you do it by hand.

  • @TootSweet
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    73 months ago

    The way things work with Sherlock Holmes, some of the original novels are in the public domain (because they were written before the cutoff) and and others are not (because they were written after the cutoff.)

    Sherlock himself is in the public domain. And he plays the violin. That’s also in the public domain. But he didn’t get a dog until a later book, so that’s still under copyright. And he didn’t get a diagnosis of bipolar/manic depression until later, so that’s also under copyright.

    So if you want to write a book about Sherlock, that’s fine just as long as you don’t give him a dog or bipolar or otherwise use any elements from after the cutoff.

    So, I believe the original trilogy will be in the public domain in 2073 and later additions (Han shooting second, musical numbers added to the special edition, etc) won’t be in the public domain until later.

    If the “Despecialized Edition” was made from the 4K version, I think it’s certain that the elements added after the original trilogy’s release would be remain under copyright for a time after 2073. But if there are any scenes that are straight up one-to-one identical between the original release and the 4K edition, I’d guess whether those would be under copyright after 2073 would depend on whether restoration and/or upscaling qualifies as sufficiently “creative” to warrant it being a distinct copyrightable work from the original release version.

    Now, even just the act of making copies of parts/all of either the original or 4K endition (in the process of making the Despecialized Edition) probably qualifes as copyright infringement. So those folks definitely would be in trouble if Disney went after them. But after 2073, whether trading copies of the Despecialized Edition will be illegal will depend on whether upscaling and restoring qualifies it for fresh copyright, and also whether any copyrightable creative elements from after the original release are included in the Despecialized Edition.

    Sorry. That’s a lot of words just to say “I dunno.” But I think it’s fair to say that after 2073 if someone upscaled the original theatrical version from that DVD release that had it (assuming nothing new was added to that not in the original theatrical release), it’d be perfectly legal to create and trade copies of.

    • @[email protected]OP
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      33 months ago

      I think that at least the sub-title “Episode IV: A New Hope” was added in that DVD release… Anyway, a “4K77” scan of a 1977 film reel distributed directly by the studio exists, it’s just noisy and needed color correction.

      • wjrii
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        33 months ago

        That was added in 1981 when it popped back into theatres after Empire. It was not original, but it was a very early addition, and since ESB came out in the interim as Episode 5 from the get-go, very much a retcon in the George style.

  • @[email protected]
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    33 months ago

    A long time ago I got rhe trilogy, but with the crappy cheezy 3D stuff added I went on a hunt for the “originals”, nice to know why I didn’t find them!