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Happy New Year 2013! What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2013?

Happy 2013 FGI readers! As we begin the new year, it’s always good to be reminded every year by Jennifer Jenkins and James Boyle and rest of the fine folks at the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain about the number of books, film and music that could have entered the public domain this year were it not for the 1976 Copyright Act. It’s a fascinating and depressing read, especially the scientific material that may never become truly free and open knowledge — not to mention the Scifi (“Minority Report” and Around The World in 80 Days — the movie — should have been “Around The World in 34,699 Days”), music, films, and literature.


Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years – an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1956 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2013, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2052. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019.

What books would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.

* Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Volume I and Volume II
* Philip K. Dick, Minority Report
* Ian Fleming, Diamonds are Forever
* Fred Gibson, Old Yeller
* Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues
* Alan Lerner, My Fair Lady
* Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night
* John Osborne, Look Back in Anger
* Dodie Smith, 101 Dalmatians

Here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years.

* Around the World in 80 Days
* The Best Things in Life are Free
* Forbidden Planet
* Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
* It Conquered the World
* The King and I
* The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 remake by Alfred Hitchcock of his 1934 British film)
* Moby Dick
* The Searchers (1956 film version with John Wayne from Alan Le May’s 1954 novel)
* The Ten Commandments (1956 version by Cecil B. DeMille, who also directed a similar film in 1923)

[HT BoingBoing!]

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