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How NOT to Copyright Your Film – Night Of The Living Dead

How NOT to Copyright Your Film – Night Of The Living Dead

Have you ever paused for a moment to think about why the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead directed by George A. Romero became a classic? Why ‘this horror classic’ has been remixed and remade so many times? And why it serves as a reference to so many other horror movies in the film industry?

It might interest you to know that this was as a result of just one mistake made on this shot. It was one mistake that gave birth to a whole new concept of horror films. Before Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” horror movies were very different from what you see today–typically found only in Asia, as living being’s that were enslaved by some supernatural powers.

Check out this amazing video essay on Copyright and Night of the Living Dead by kaptainkristian.

Sign of Ownership

Ideas that were almost similar to the concept of “Night of the Living Dead” back in the 1940s were seen in movies like “I walked with a zombie,” and ” white zombie.” After these films were released, the ‘ghouls’ then became the new zombies, and the new zombies were no longer accredited to Romero.

This was due to the fact under the old copyright act of 1909; this small symbol © was the only thing that differentiates between ‘not owning or owning your work.’ That was the main reason why every movie up until the late 1970s (Scarlet Street, The Shadow of a Doubt, Detour, etc.) had the logo © boldly inscribed on the title work and covers–something that this movie (Night of the Living Dead) did not have.

The Costly Mistake

Romero’s production company (Image10) decided to change the name from “Night of the Flesh Eaters” to “Night of the Living Dead,” to avoid any kind of confusion with a movie titled “Flesh Eaters.” Romero agreed to the change, but the Walter Reade Organization mistakenly omitted the symbol of film copyright from the first title card.

According to the 1909 film copyright act, the first public show of your work must have the film copyright symbol or abbreviation of copyright and the year of production, or else you’ve lost the right of ownership forever. And so, this movie became free for every video house, game shop, cinemas to work with, without any licensing – he would have been the owner of this concept of humans moving in slow motion and eating human flesh. Every zombie video game, comic or movies can be traced back to Romero’s intellectual production.

Final Note

Even the producer of “Walking Dead,” Robert Kirkman, intended to title one of his books “Night of the Walking Dead” –he believed that this name recognition would attract many sales.

What makes Romero’s work so unique is the fact that even in the crowd of copycats, with every upcoming producer in the horror movie set, imitating Romero’s intellectual property– he still lived up to expectations by producing another thought-provoking, a blockbuster horror movie (Night of the Living Dead).

So if you are making a movie and need a film to play in the background, grab a copy of Night of the Living Dead and press play.


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