Happy Public Domain day: for real, for the first time in 20 years!


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/12/31/thanks-justin.html


Are there not works that are in the public domain that were published later? I was under the impression everything by HP Lovecraft was public domain (one of the reasons everyone uses it or references it). The text of all the stories are freely available online.

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There are, but via other means. Until the 70’s if you didn’t register renew your copyright, it expired. That’s how Night of the Living Dead and all those 50’s movies got into the public domain: their copyright owners didn’t think it was worth the bother to renew the copyright and let them lapse.


A useful tool:


Stanford’s Copyright Renewal Database is a searchable index of the copyright renewal records for books published in the US between 1923 and 1963. Note that the database includes only renewal records, not original registrations, and only Class A (book) renewals received by the US Copyright Office between 1950 and 1992.

The period from 1923-1963 is of special interest for US copyrights, as works published after January 1, 1964 had their copyrights automatically renewed by statute, and works published before 1923 have generally fallen into the public domain. Between those dates, determining whether a work’s registration was renewed as required has been a challenge. Renewals received by the Copyright Office after 1977 are searchable in an online database, but renewals received between 1950 and 1977 were distributed only in a semi-annual print publication which has not been made searchable. The Copyright Renewal Database brings those records together in a searchable format.

The full data set for the Copyright Renewals Database is available for download. Stanford welcomes reuse of the data in other systems and search tools. We also welcome comments on the database.

It’s a pity that the initial copyright registrations aren’t yet available in easily searchable form. Just before L. Ron Hubbard’s works would have fallen into public domain, Scientology did a flurry of renewals for works that were probably never registered in the first place.


yeah I thought there was something else that allowed things to go into public domain. Just didn’t couldn’t remember how it worked. Before 1970 creators had to file for an extension? I guess I’ll have to look up the original time length w/o an extension.


So the honeymoon is over?

A step in the right direction for the US to be sure, but since the corporate overlords now censor the primary means of communication at their whim, we’ll see how much they bother to obey this expiration. Still need copyright reform, and arguably more importantly reform of the tech industry’s unregulated extrajudicial fiat over it.


I just had the idea, though it’s too late to plan, of having a new year’s eve Public Domain Day event at the local hackerspace, where we could print and distribute works as they fall into the public domain.

Next year, maybe.

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Sonny Bono? Sonny Bono? That miserable little puke didn’t even register to vote until the late 1980’s! ******^^^^^%^%%%$$$$##&&&&!!!@!!!###him!

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Even more so papers from the 19th century. A few years ago I wrote a paper on Albert Abraham Michelson, of the famous Michelson-Morley experiment. It turns out that the scanned original is still paywalled along with much of Mickelson’s other work despite his death in 1932.

Yes, there are “bootleg” copies (all legal) but the publishers are still doing their best to milk a cow they never so much as fed.


What’s particularly grating is it isn’t just the money-grubbing commercial scientific publishers like Springer and Elsevier that have these ridiculously long-lived paywalls. Even a lot of papers from the journal Science (published by the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science) are under paywall even after many decades.


Sing it, brother!


With Night of the Living Dead the problem was that there was no copyright in the first place. I believe the film was first going to be named ‘Night of the Flesh Eaters’ but right before production they changed it, and when they did that they accidentally removed the copyright symbol when the title displays in the film, which US law requires to be indicated for the copyright to be in effect. One little mistake cost Romero a good chunk of change.


Looking forward to writing, Right Ho, Jeeves and Zombies.


Technically, since a Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962 the expectation at the time was that it would enter the public domain 2014. 1962+26 years+a 26 year renewal.


Public domain you say?


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scream for jeeves.


Looking forward to reading Right Ho, Jeeves and Zombies!


Ironically one of the things that made Lovecraft so successful in death was the same thing that made him a financial failure in life—he was a terrible businessman who either didn’t bother or didn’t know how to retain legal ownership of his work.

If he had, he might have eaten better but probably never would have reached such a wide audience.

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Pet peeve of mine: it’s “E.E. Cummings.” He may have written poetry without capital letters, but he didn’t sign his name that way. The “e.e.” thing was a book cover design affectation on the part of his publisher. That’s it.

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