FAQ

(en français: Les films Lumière sont-ils accessibles au public?)

What’s this?

A complete catalogue of all films published by the Lumière company between 1895 and 1905. For now all is in French, translations will be added in due time.

Why did you make this website?

Being interested in the history of film, I was surprised that I couldn’t find a complete list of the Lumière’s productions online. I therefore compiled this list, based on the most authoritative source: the book “La production cinématographique des Frères Lumière” (ISBN 978-2950904812), edited by Michelle Aubert and Jean-Claude Seguin, and published by the CNC, the Université Lumière-Lyon 2 and the National Film Library in 1996. It is currently out of print. With some luck, you can grab a copy on Amazon France.

Where can I see the movies?

The films can be accessed at two locations:

18 films have been lost, but 1405 have been restored and digitized, through an effort that started in the 1990’s, and was financed by the Centre national du cinéma (CNC).

The entire catalogue has been included in 2005 in the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

What is the copyright status of the films? Are they in the public domain?

Excellent question! The answer actually depends on your jurisdiction, and on the lifespan of the author. According to US law, any work published before 1923 in the US has entered the public domain — that is probably the case for all those films.

According to the Association Frères Lumière, the works of Auguste and Louis Lumière (32 films) remain under copyright until the year 2039. This applies in France, which has special copyright extensions for war periods. The UNESCO application of 2004 states that pecuniary rights are owned until 2039 by the Association Frères Lumière, while non‑pecuniary rights are held by the Lumière estate.

In European countries applying the “lifetime +70 years” copyright duration, most of the films are already in the public domain. This applies to the films where the author is “unknown” (784 works), the films shot by Alexandre Promio (348 works), Gabriel Veyre (72 works) and Tsunekichi Shibata.

What is the copyright of the metadata?

You will need to hire a lawyer to answer that for you. My personal assumption is that a list of film titles and their short descriptions, based on commercial catalogs published between 1897-1907, and assembled by numerous film historians throughout the 20th century, cannot be copyrighted by any single entity. I publish the list on this website for non-commercial research purposes.

Who has made this website?

Glad that you asked! This website has been built by Manuel Schmalstieg, media artist, designer-developer, cinema lover, free software & open culture enthousiast (my main web presence is here, twitter: @16kbit).

The first iteration of this website was completed through November 30 – December 4 2013, following my participation in the Free Culture event at the New Institute, Rotterdam.

The original idea was triggered by discussions with Sebastian Bohle and Olivier Heinry, and inspired by the work of Sebastian Lütgert and Jason Scott.