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Something like this is almost always used at the very end of the credits creep in movies (and TV shows). But why the cumbersome use of Roman numerals? Why not just say 1998 and be done with it?

2 Answers 2


According to David Feldman's book Imponderables: The Solution to the Mysteries of Everyday Life:

Why are copyrighted dates on movies and television shows written in Roman numerals?

  • The general consensus is the "deception theory":

    • to "make it difficult for viewers to determine exactly how old the show is", the reason being the older the date the "staler" the material may seem to the audience.

  • Then there's the "inertia theory":

    • That's just the way it's always been done.

This BBC article says something similar:

Perhaps one of the most notable areas where people are likely to come across Roman numerals is in TV and film credits, where the convention is not to spell out what year something was made.

The practice is believed to have started in an attempt to disguise the age of films or television programmes. In other words, the opposite of claiming an undeserved antiquity.

  • 1
    It's been a lot easier since 2000 (MM) but it gets (relatively) more difficult every year thereafter. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 18:16
  • 1
    I second the inertia argument. I just watched a football game. At the very end, there was a copyright notice of MMXV. Clearly, this was a live production of today. There is no value in masking the age of a football broadcast.
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 21:05
  • 2
    This is just pure speculation by Feldman and the BBC with no sources given. Were old books that also used Roman numerals for their year of publication also trying to trick their readers? Is the NFL trying to trick its viewers with Superbowl "LVII"? Is Rockstar Games trying to trick its players with Grand Theft Auto "V"?
    – user97401
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 6:46

Readability and Internationalization

Movies are mostly produced on reels of film (few are digital). Physical film can degrade over time making it difficult to read numeric values. Some numbers will look exactly the same, for example the number 6 will become 5 when the film becomes old. Where as, roman numerals are easier to read when the film degrades. A lot of television shows are also shot with film.

The other problem is languages. Arabic numbers are hard to distinguish in fine print. Two and three look very similar. So the film industry started using roman numerals to ensure the copyright date was always readable.

enter image description here

  • 16
    Can you provide any sources for this? Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 10:53
  • 1
    This is hard to reconcile with the rest of the titles and credits being written with Roman letters. Besides, the industry is rapidly shifting to digital capture. In a few years, practically no movie will be shot on film.
    – wallyk
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 5:29
  • 4
    Many modern digital movies are stored for long term on film, (salt mine in Kansas) because video formats keep changing. 50 video formats since the late 80s! Film lasts longer than video isn't that wild? So title degradation is still an issue even for modern films.
    – user6816
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 18:48
  • 3
    What is the purpose of including the image of Arabic-Indic numerals? In your answer, you state "Arabic numbers are hard to distinguish in fine print. Two and three look very similar." which is very true for Arabic-Indic numerals, but not for "Arabic" (Hindu-Arabic) numerals. I have never seen a movie made in countries that use Roman-style alphabets that used Arabic-Indic numerals. They either used Hindu-Arabic or, perhaps more commonly, Roman numerals. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 20:48
  • I have to second wallyk. In the context of 'everything else' this seems like a fairly implausible reason for just the copyright date to be written out in Roman Numerals.
    – DA.
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 21:39

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