The Italian film The Bicycle Thieves (The Bicycle Thief, English version), was first released in 1948 to critical acclaim. The movie’s plot is centered around a man searching for his stolen bicycle in post-war Rome in order to save his job and support his young family. The film received numerous awards and is still a cult favorite, and is even available on Netflix.
Copyright Lawsuit. Derivative work.
However, Netflix has recently run into problems over the copyright of the film and is being sued by the copyright holder, Corinth Films.
The plaintiffs don’t deny that the film’s original copyright was not renewed and is in the “public domain” in the United States, however, they contend that the English subtitled version of the film that was offered by Netflix is indeed still under copyright.
In 1985, the plaintiff was involved in a suit over the film (International Film Exchange Limited v Corinth Films), where a judge declared the film to be in the public domain because neither party bothered to re-register the copyright. However, the judge also ruled that the subtitled and dubbed versions of the film were a “derivative work,” and may still be under copyright.
Under copyright law, a derivative work, also referred to as adaptation work, is based on or derived from an already existing work. This can include translations, film versions of books or plays, musical arrangements, art reproductions, and abridgements of existing works. A derivative work must contain some or all of an existing work, while adding original new copyrightable material to that existing work.
The plaintiff intends to show that it registered copyright for the English subtitled version of the film in 2007. They state in their suit that Netflix never reached out to seek permission or license for use of the film. They are asking the court for an injunction and well as monetary damages.
Netflix has yet to release a statement, thus their defense arguments are unknown.
What do you think about this lawsuit? Do you think it holds any merit?