High Court rules authors own Soviet-era films

Take note – story published 7 years ago

The rights to 973 films made in the Soviet era belong neither to the state, nor to the Rīgas kinostudija (Riga Film Studio) company, Latvia's High Court ruled on Tuesday. This means that the copyright protections only apply to the people who made them.

In 2007 Rīgas kinostudija announced that it has handed the distribution rights of the movies to Danish company Voxell Aps in a move that surprised the state which had assumed it holds the rights to these movies.

The Culture Ministry turned to court with the first instance court saying that the ministry has the rights to these films, like the 1981 smash hit, A Limousine The Colour Of Midsummer's Eve, with the provision that the authors' rights are abided to as well. 

The film studio appealed and a second-instance court ruled that it is in fact Rīgas kinostudija that owns the rights to the films.

The case was taken up by the High Court late last year. On Tuesday it ruled that the rights to the 973 movies made from 1964 to 1990 were lost by the studios as a new copyright law that would ensure heredity of the rights had not been made. 

This means that neither the state, nor Rīgas kinostudija owns the films, but the rights of physical persons still apply, meaning filmmakers can turn to court in case of copyright infringement.

The Culture Ministry expressed pleasure over the decision.

"The films made in the Soviet era are an essential part of Latvia's cultural heritage. It is our goal to guard the golden classics of Latvian cinema and ensure its availability to the general public," Culture Minister Dace Melbārde said.

She added that the ministry has already restored and digitized 24 movies altogether, with the help of EU funds.

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