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Using PD clips of famous actors in your film. Any legal issues?

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  • Using PD clips of famous actors in your film. Any legal issues?

    I have for the past couple of years been working on a pet film project which uses clips from old public domain films intercut and composited with new footage to tell my own original story. If you've ever seen Carl Reiner's 1982 film-noir send-up Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, that's a good example of what I'm doing here.

    In selecting the clips I plan to use, I have been careful not to include any clips containing music as I know musical scores can carry copyrights separate from the films they appear in. Also the dialogue is edited and rearranged in such a way that it bears little resemblance to the original scripts. But how about the actors likenesses? I have some pretty big name actors from Hollywood's Golden Era appearing in my film - Actors like Bogart, Peter Lorre, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Joan Bennett, etc. All are now deceased but is there any need to seek permission from these actor's estates since the clips they appear in are now public domain?
    Matt Crunk
    Writer/Producer/Director/Actor
    Fiveacre Films Productions
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