I was looking to watch a Soviet movie from the 1970's (Moscow-Cassiopeia, nothing with much communist propaganda, just a teen comedy). I thought that this movie would be only possible to find through torrent sites, but I was surprised to see it for sale on iTunes. Who would be Apple licensing this movie from? There was an embargo against Soviet Union during the 1980's, wouldn't have this disabled any copyright from before this embargo?

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    According to Wikipedia the Gorky Film Studio is still a going concern; if the film is in the public domain nothing stops Apple from charging a fee to distribute it.
    – user662852
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:17
  • Thanks for the information, it is an answer per itself. But even with Gorky Film Studio still existing, are they still liable to any copyright to this movie? Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


The Soviet Union generally had no copyright treaties with the western world before 1973. So, anything before then is public domain. The USSR had a policy of public domain and considered anything published to be the property of the "people", including anything published in the west.

Even for works produced after 1973, they would have to be registered for copyright in the United States to claim a copyright here.

  • How can I know if a movie was registered for copyright in the United States? Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 18:33
  • @GabrielDiego It is not registered after 1978, I already looked. If you want to check 1973 to 1978, you either have to go to Washington to the copyright office, or trying looking through the digitized index here: archive.org/details/copyrightrecords
    – Cicero
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 18:39
  • I believe this to be incorrect. Wikipedia Commons had discussion about this and concluded that Soviet works even prior to 1973 have copyright applied to them retroactively. The fact that something has once been in public domain does not mean legislation cannot impose copyright on it later. See full discussion at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template_talk:PD-Soviet
    – Sampo
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 20:30
  • @Sampo Regardless of any technical avenue to a copyright claim, the practical legal reality of copyright in the United States is a plaintiff must file a registration to establish validity of their copyright before making a copyright claim in a court of law. Since the nuisance of doing this is significant, it is unlikely that any pre-1990 Russian author will go to the trouble unless the work is commercially viable. Therefore, though a Russian author might have a technical capability to claim a copyright, from a practical standpoint most old Soviet stuff is unlikely to be legally defended.
    – Cicero
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 4:32
  • @Cicero However impractical it may be that the copyright could be held up in court, your statement "anything before then is public domain" is probably wrong.
    – Sampo
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 12:33

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