How Missing Title Card Information for ‘Night of the Living Dead’ Put Zombies Into the Public Domain

Filmmaker Kristian Williams aka “kaptainkristian” explains how the simple error of omitting the notice of copyright from the title card of his iconic horror film Night of the Living Dead, led to creator George Romero‘s ideas being widely shared in the public domain without any protection from copyright. This mistake cost Romero millions of dollars and the ability to control his creation.

Under the Copyright Act of 1909 the first public display of your work without the symbol word or abbreviation of copyright and the year of publication meant that you lost your copyright forever and the work becomes part of the public domain. …Had Romero’s copyright mistake had been caught before distribution, He would have not only retained the rights to this film but also have exclusive rights to the idea of the zombie as we know it today. The concept of a slow-moving flesh-eating ambulatory corpse would have been protected as his intellectual property.