Public Domain Day outside the USA: what Canada and the rest of the world get today

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So, in the UK at least, Mein Kampf becomes public domain.


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Is it preferable that the copies of Mein Kampf that are widely available in the UK return a dividend to Hitler’s publishers/heirs?


I guess if the written works of every evil dictator were also early public domain, that might be a reasonable point.

As it is, it just ruins a joke. Ta.

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Depends on how you feel about the freedom to publish it, and how you feel about the government of Bavaria, who were given the copyright after the war; I think expressly to forbid publication.

(My father had a copy in English, which he inherited from his father, who must have bought it not long after its publication; he believed in Knowing One’s Enemy. Come to think of it, he may have also taken mischievous pleasure in scandalising visitors by having it in the bookcase.)


On the other hand, Yemen looks like a haven of free expression!


As far as Mein Kampf is concerned, Hitler’s heir is the German federal state of Bavaria. For the last 70 years, officials there have declined to permit the printing of new copies of the book, so any copies that are around and are not left over from before 1945 are presumably “pirated”.

Here in Germany, Mein Kampf has also entered the public domain today, and this will be celebrated by the publication of a critically-annotated version later this month. The Bavarian officials are less than enthusiastic (even though the state partly underwrote the project when it was new; they later withdrew from it again), and there is apparently consensus between the ministers of justice in the various German states that they will try to sue people who publish uncommented versions of the book because they claim it incites people to ethnic hatred (Volksverhetzung). Since the legal bar for this is actually quite high and specific, whether that will actually yield the desired result in court is anybody’s guess.

In actual fact the book is very badly written and not really enjoyable reading at all, even (very probably) for wannabe neo-Nazis, so the fuss that is being made about it probably does nothing except make the thing more interesting when it would otherwise be very obscure indeed.


We read Mein Kampf in a high school world history class as a project. It was definitely poorly written, but my teacher at the time wanted to emphasize that, while the heads of the European powers were negotiating with Hitler, it was quite obvious that none of them had read it.

Chamberlain was waiving a treaty signed by a man who stated his plan clearly to overrun Europe, and that he would use deceit to further those goals. It was almost like every Batman show, where the villain would painstakingly explain his evil plan, only that Hitler gave Europe 10 years notice.

Knowing thy enemy is critical. If anyone had read Mein Kampf they could have never come to the conclusion that Hitler could be appeased.


Maybe in Germany, but not in the rest of the world. In the USA, Houghton Mifflin publishes Mein Kampf. I also worked in Canadian bookstores that sold it in the 1980s.

In the USA you can buy it on Amazon. I have it on my Nook, and I know that was a purchased copy. I went to High school in the US in the 70s and it was available in book stores then.

The publishing rights for the English version were sold by Eher (Hitler’s publisher) in the 1930s, afaik to one of the companies nowadays part of Random Penguin (or however the firm is named…).

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The English rights to Mein Kampf were actually licensed to Houghton Mifflin (which as Cory notes still publishes the book), which sublicensed the rights to publish a full translation to another publisher, Reynal & Hitchcock, which was bought by yet another publisher (Harcourt, Brace), which was bought (in 2007) by – tadaa!! – Houghton Mifflin.

Even in Germany the book isn’t actually proscribed – if you have a copy you are free to use it or sell it, or to buy one if you can find it offered anywhere –, it’s just that there have been no (official, complete) new copies printed since 1945. Even so there are still loads of pre-1945 copies around since during the Nazi regime, newly-married couples would be given a complimentary copy of Mein Kampf by the state, and it used to be illegal to sell or buy the book on the second-hand market, in order to safeguard Hitler’s profit stream. Hence many people come across them when they clear out their grandparents’ attics. And while of course nowadays the text is easy to find on the Internet, Mein Kampf is still not something that skinheads tend to carry around in the pockets of their bomber jackets.

Incidentally, it is not possible to outlaw Mein Kampf on the grounds that it argues for the abolition of civil liberties and the democratic order as outlined in the German federal constitution (the Freiheitliche demokratische Grundordnung). This is because it predates the German constitution by some 20 years and therefore cannot be considered an attack on it.


Besides the issue of copyright expiration, trying to do research on current conversations in my field is frequently frustrated by paywall after paywall to get to the papers I want. Sometimes I pay up to $30 for a paper, just going off of citations and the abtract, and it could turn out to be not so useful. Most papers have dozens of sources, many of them behind paywalls of some kind…the costs can add up quickly.

This situation undoubtedly limits the quantity, quality, and depth of the conversations being had, and consequently the general realm of knowledge. It also encourages specialists to become even more siloed. The damage that this is doing to our collective body of knowledge–now and down the road–is immeasurable.

Thankfully, more and more outlets are free and available on the internet.


Saaay, Random Penguin sounds like a great name for a band! What? Too much like Arctic Monkeys? Damn!


I found the source for the confusion: Houghton Mifflin owned the US publishing rights, Hurst & Blacket (currently part of the Penguins in Random House) licensed the translation rights for the UK.

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If you have good librarians at your local library, they can often get these papers for free, although their serials and research collections are not what they used to be. Much better would be if you had a link to a higher education library–they’re likely to have many subscriptions to fit your research bill.

Yeah, a good college library would have access to all sorts of research collections and these collections will generally be available to anyone who is on site. Also, if you’re an alumnus, you can probably get online access to most of the electronic collections for a fee, probably not much more than you’re paying for a paper would get you a semester’s access (or maybe a full year).

The incredible irony that Disney, perhaps the biggest lobbyist behind this effort, built their empire largely on the reinterpretation of public domain works

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