The Party of Open: Open Government, Open Culture, Open Innovation & People First

Happy Public Domain Day!

For the first time in 20 years, new works will enter the public domain in the United States. Copyrighted works entering the public domain were put on hold by the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, aka the the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, which extended the term of copyright from the life of the author + 50 years to life of the author + 70 years. When the term of copyright was 28 years with a 28 year renewal, 85% of copyrighted works were not renewed since the profit from the work wasn’t higher than the cost of renewal.

One aspect of the copyright term extension is that we have lost 20 years worth of films, news reels and documentaries because many of them have simply rotted away as the copyright holders didn’t have a financial incentive to digitize them and archivists couldn’t do so while the works were under copyright.

Here are three useful articles:

While Mickey Mouse is still in Disney lockdown until 2024, here is a selection of what is entering the public domain. You can find a full list at Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

  • Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet
  • Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room
  • Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links
  • Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments
  • Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim
  • Rin Tin Tin’s third film, Where the North Begins
  • The Charleston
  • Noël Coward’s London Calling!
  • George Gershwin’s Stop Flirting
  • Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, indeed any poem in Robert Frost’s Pulitzer Prize-winning compendium New Hampshire
  • The Chip Woman’s Fortune By Willis Richardson – The first drama by an African-American author produced on Broadway; a one-act story of a family in financial straits
  • Zane Grey’s “The Vanishing American” in Ladies’ Home Journal – One of the first literary critiques of the treatment of Native Americans; harsher than the later novel and silent film
  • Jessie Conrad’s A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House – A peek into the life of author Joseph Conrad via his wife’s recipe collection
  • Arthur Conan Doyle’s Our American Adventure
  • The Real Story of a Bootlegger
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