FAQ About Public Domain Movies Public Domain Films

Frequently Asked Questions About Public Domain Movies, Public Domain Films



The RetroFilm Vault is a business to business broadcast quality content provider servicing established media-related businesses. For more details, read our qualifed buyers page.



Each order is customized to our clients individual programing needs. Pricing relies on three components. 1) The number of titles requested 2) The file format requested (MPEG4 or Apple Quicktime ProRes files) 3) Whether the titles are standard definition or high definition. For discussion on pricing or other questions, call us at (310) 622-7267 during business hours 9 AM to 6PM Pacific Time U.S. or email us with your want list of public domain movies with your complete contact information (including a contact phone number). Composing your want list and sending it to us yields the most accurate quote.



Please refer to the answer to previous question.

Usually 2-3 business days, but can vary with the size of the order.

We can deliver any high quality digital format you wish. These days the most popular formats requested are Apple Quicktime ProRes Quicktime Files or MPEG4 files.  Format and definition are two different subjects  Some titles are available in high definition.  Standard Definition programs are available in NTSC and PAL standards.


For small orders (say a few movies or most trailer orders), we can upload the files for you to download (We like to keep most uploads under 30 Gigabytes). For larger order we put files on a hard drive to ship to you via Federal Express.
If we ship a physical hard drive or if we ship broadcast tape masters, it usually takes 2-3 business days to turn around and then send via Federal Express. Cost depends on the size of your order and is based on the Federal Express rates. In most cases, we prefer to bill your company’s Fed Ex account number.

In most cases, the source masters that are in standard definition are from Digital Beta Master tapes transferred directly from the best available film prints making for high broadcast quality features for your use. You will not find better any place else. High Definition titles were generally originated from film. The elements of certain rare archival footage are of varying degrees of condition and we always tell you up front what to expect.
There are several ways a film becomes a public domain movie. The work was either never registered with the United States Copyright Office or the renewal of the registration on the 28th year was not made. If copyright notice was not given during the years when such was a requirement, the film becomes public domain. Also, production paid for by the U.S. Government are public domain.
All available titles have been researched with the U.S. Library of Congress and are public domain. As an international distributor, we could not sell them to you if they were not. Many British, German, and French titles are only public domain inside the United States. If you are not familiar with how US copyright laws apply in your country please do your own due diligence. Titles list from the 1980’s are referred to as “non-registered” titles, which means that they were never registered with the Copyright Office, and as a result, can be distributed like public domain titles.

Except for in very rare instances, the music, if part of the original program, is free and clear to use when aired alongside the picture. As part of the production, music was assigned “synchronization rights”.

You cannot, separate the music and use in another production; or use a recognizable face to endorse a product. Otherwise, you are free to do what you wish with the material.

Public domain works do not require a license. The RetroFilm Vault provides a service at a one-time buyout fee.
Possibly. Though we often sell to those in need of footage for various projects, we do not do clip research. However, if your request is general such as “UFO’s” we know the library well enough to be able to help make suggestions. The cost of an entire program is usually less than it would be to pay a stock footage house for a 2-3 minute clip of the same material. With a purchase from The RetroFilm Vault, you can have the footage you want and a master to keep which can be used at any time, now or in the future, with no extra costs or licensing fees. You may use the second search box at the top of this page and type in a specific subject like the word “Irish” or just browse through our catalog. Read more about our RetroFilm Vault’s stock footage service.
We accept wire transfer for larger orders and Visa, MasterCard, and American Express for very small orders (like a couple of trailers or cartoons)
Public Domain Movies
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