Movies and Videos – A Basic Guide

What movies can I upload?

You may upload any movies that you own the copyright to or are in the public domain.

However, copyright is tricky so if you are uncertain, it’s best to do your research or even consult a copyright researcher in order to make sure that the material you choose to upload is not an infringement of copyright.

One of our volunteers has compiled a list of movies that are verified to be in the public domain. To the best of our knowledge, it is accurate but we can’t make any guarantees.

Click on the link to view the list of movies.

The points below refer to movies produced in the United States only:

1. Copyright notice location.

You will usually view the copyright notice with the title or at the end of the film.

2. Works that were completed in 1923 or earlier are generally in the public domain.

Note, this does not pertain to restored versions of films, new soundtracks or additional enhancements post 1923. Usually, a copyright notice for a new soundtrack or restoration will appear in the film.

3. For works made from 1923 to 1949.

You can post a question to the movie forum on this site before you upload, but remember there is no definitive online way to check on the copyright and the copyright could have been renewed.

4. For works made from 1950 to 1963.

You can check the title at the Library of Congress Copyright Database for copyright renewals: Library of Congress Copyright Database 

5. If the copyright notice is 1964 or later. 

The copyright is probably still valid and the film should not be uploaded unless you are the copyright holder.

The copyright notice needs to state four things:

– The word “copyright”

– The copyright symbol  copyright_symbol.png or (C)

– The year 

– The copyright owner

If it’s missing one of those elements or if there is no notice, it could be in the public domain.

If you aren’t sure, please post a question to the movie forum on this site.

Foreign titles might not have a copyright notice but still may be copyrighted in their country of origin.

Traditionally the U.S. wouldn’t recognize the copyright unless the notice was registered in the U.S.

However, this has changed with the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade or GATT treaty. Many foreign works have had their copyrights restored.

Before you upload, please post a question to the movie forum on this site regarding these films.

What kind of movie file should I submit?

Our archive is all about providing free access to information so please submit file formats that are easy to download or stream.

We prefer that you submit the highest quality format that you have available, and then we will attempt to create smaller file sizes and formats automatically with our deriver program.

In general, MPEG2 files have been the easiest file type for us to deal with.

We recommend that you do not attempt to do any special encoding of your files. We have found that the more the settings have been manipulated, the less likely it is that our deriver program will be able to process the file.

The table on the  Derivative Formats page describes what file formats we will attempt to derive depending on what type of file you submit.

Can I upload compressed or zipped files?

We don’t recommend that you do because uploading content in a .zip or .rar file makes your item significantly less accessible to others and they are unable to stream it.

If you upload .zip, .rar, non-video formats (like .exe), or password-protected files, they may be removed by our moderators.

We have a table of file formats that we will derive from your source file, go to the following link to see them Types of Derivatives for Movie Items.  

Who owns the rights to the movies that have been uploaded?

This will vary from movie to movie but many of the films are licensed with Creative Commons Licenses. Uploaders may designate whether or not an item has a CC license.

Generally, the Creative Commons logo will appear on the left-hand side of the movie’s detail page. Click on this logo to see the details about the specific type of license that the uploader has assigned to the movie.

Some films may have the contact information listed for the filmmaker. If the information is provided, feel free to contact the filmmaker or organization the film comes from.  

Unfortunately, cannot guarantee the accuracy of uploader-provided information.

Can I stream the movies?

There are several programs you can use to stream movies in the Archive. The type of player is determined by the format of the uploaded movie.  

Some files simply can’t be streamed and this usually occurs when the program that was used to create the file used a codec that our software can’t interpret.

When this happens, you might get an unsupported media type of error. If this occurs, rather use the download links instead.

What are some free players I can use to play films offline?


If you have Quicktime installed, many mp4 streaming movies will play right in your browser window just by clicking a stream (or download) link.

Make sure you have the latest version so that you can play the widest array of files.

You can download Quicktime here

VLC Media Player

VLC will stream mp4, avi, mpg, and other file formats, so it is quite useful for viewing the majority of the files in the archive.

To stream a movie using VLC, do the following.

Open your VLC Media Player and go to File. This is under the Media tab on the menu.

Select the Network Stream Option

Open Network Stream. You will see a pop-up modal box. Capture the URL of the file from the Internet Archive and insert it here.

You can use the following URL to test

You can download VLC here.

What encoding specifications are best for .mp4 files?

For your original mp4 to work in the online player we currently require the file to have:
audio: aac
video: h.264
moov atom: front
pixel format: yuv420p

If this is not the case we will derive a new mp4 with the file name suffix .ia.mp4

What are the encoding specifications?

You can find the specs we use for encoding in the “Additional info on audio/video derivatives” section.