Friday, December 21, 2018

The Public Domain is About to Get Bigger on January 1

1923 photo of three young women
1923 photo of three young women
1923.  That is the year we all have memorized about which items are in the public domain and which are not.  However,  that date is no longer the dividing line.  The Smithsonian Institute proudly proclaims:
At midnight on New Year’s Eve, all works first published in the United States in 1923 will enter the public domain. It has been 21 years since the last mass expiration of copyright in the U.S.
The article later says:
We have never seen such a mass entry into the public domain in the digital age. The last one—in 1998, when 1922 slipped its copyright bond—predated Google. 
 Cornell has already updated its Copyright Term and the Public Domain chart.

Is everything created in and before now part of the public domain?  No.  If you look at the Cornell chart, you will see that there are still some materials under copyright protection. Those will eventually enter the public domain, but not right now.

Every year from now on, more works will enter the public domain.  Imagine when those works from 1929 enter the public domain, and being able to read more about the impact of the stock market crash.  Imagine the 20th century history that we will have available. It has been said that the 20th century is missing from the Internet.  Having these works enter the public domain will make the 20th century more relevant.  Perhaps with more history available, we will stop repeating our mistakes.

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