During many years, this cloying melodrama (the most terrifying Hollywood film ever made, Rich Cohen) was torturing audiences in every TV channels worldwide during Christmas. However, lately it is much less seen in TV (maybe it continues in USA, but not in most of countries). Why?
The reason is that in 1974, Republic Pictures, the owner of the film, forgot to renew the copyright. The film was purchased in 1946, and the copyright was valid during 28 years, until 1974. Then it could be renewed for other 28 years, but the movie was so forgotten in that age, that nobody in Republic Pictures reminded it. Since then, to broadcast “It’s a Wonderful Life” was free. (Roger Evert reviews)
Sadly someone in a TV channel (TBS) found it out, and broadcast it in Christmas. Soon every channel was doing the same, and surprisingly the audience for the film was growing and growing over the years. It became an obligatory tradition to broadcast each Christmas in every TV channel the adventures and misfortunes of George Bailey.
But luckily, a sentence of U.S. Supreme Court let that Republic Pictures recovered the control over the movie. Although the film’s images were in the public domain, the film’s story was still protected by virtue of it being a derivative work of “The Greatest Gift”. This is a 1943 short story written by Philip Van Dorn Stern which became the basis for the film, and Philip had renewed the copyright when he must. Republic Pictures bought the copyright of “The Greatest Gift” and therefore “It’s a wonderful life” was under its control again. (Wikipedia: It’s a Wonderful Life, ¿Por qué ya no vemos ‘Qué bello es vivit’ en Navidad?)
And so, George Bailey and the overfed angel began to dissapear from the TV channels. Thank you very much, Supreme Court.
PS: I remain with no TV, anyway, more than one year already (My life without TV).