January 1, 2011 Is Public Domain Day

According to Gutenberg News every new year since the first copyrights expired, back around 1724, the world has looked forward to the expiration of copyrights and the availability of public domain works, which have been kept under publishing monopolies.

This coming January 1, Europeans will see a nice list of great works entering the public domain as their copyright terms expire. Yet in the United States, where a landmark Supreme Court Case decided that an extended copyright term could literally last forever, a person can no longer look forward to such happenings.

Some examples of expiring copyright in Europe this coming year: Freud, Havelock Ellis, Zane Grey and William Butler Yeats.

These works can now have new life breathed into them via any number of new unauthorized editions that publishers and private citizens are able create, including new articles, books, TV shows, videos, movies and all other forms of media.

Next year, many people will ask why the sudden resurgent interest in Freud, Ellis, Grey, Yeats, etc., and answers will rarely include the fact that these authors weren’t previously available due to copyright.

Via a simple “public domain day” search, you will find lists of items entering the public domain under various copyright terms in other countries, and a different set of lists of would have been available in the U.S.: Waton and Crick’s original Nature article on DNA, Walt Disney’s original movie of Peter Pan, the first James Bond adventure: Casino Royale, and the first issue of Playboy magazine.

The public has less and less in the way of public domain rights, and not just in the way of extensions that make them last longer than a modern day lifetime, but also in those rarely mentioned new forms of copyright, of items that never used to be in any manner subject to copyright, such as sports box scores.

Photo by Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

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