What Do I Need to Sell a Public Domain Movie?


A movie in the public domain is available for anyone to sell. A movie enters public domain when it is not covered by intellectual property rights or if those rights have expired. You do not need a lot to sell a public domain movie. Your profit will be largely based on your efforts and the demand for the movie you’ve chosen.

Proof the Movie Is Public Domain

Before you endeavor to sell a public domain movie, you want to verify that the movie is legitimately public domain. If you sell a movie only to find out it is not public domain, you can end up in legal trouble. Several online resources are available to find public domain movies, including the public domain movie database, Public Domain Flicks.com and the Internet Moving Image Archive. However, these resources can be incomplete. The most accurate way to verify if a movie is public domain is by checking with the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Film

Once you know a film is public domain, you need a master copy of the film to sell it. You have a number of ways you can obtain the film. You can purchase it from another vendor, download it from one of the aforementioned websites or rip a copy from your own DVD collection. While movies in the public domain rarely have the enhanced visual and audio quality of modern films, try to get the cleanest copy possible.

Ability to Reproduce

Possessing the film is one thing. To sell the movie, you need the ability to transfer it to disc in large quantities. Fortunately, many computers come equipped with DVD burners that allow you to make multiple copies of a DVD from a single file. If you do not have a DVD burner, you can purchase one, but it is likely to run you several hundred dollars. You will also need DVD-R discs as opposed to DVD-RWs. You may also want to invest in media creation software, which will allow you to create menus and chapters on your DVD for a more professional look and will also run a few hundred dollars.

Distribution Platform

Once your public domain movie is on DVD, you need an outlet to sell it. While you probably don't want to set up a booth on the street, you have several options. You can sell online through vendors such as eBay, Craig’s List and Amazon. You can also visit trade shows and conventions and set up booths there. If you properly utilize your resources, you can increase your sales.

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