The first of the year is Public Domain Day, a day intended to call attention to copyright issues and the public domain. At the Center for the Study of the Public Domain they have an interesting (and sobering) review of works that won’t enter the public domain this year.
Copyright laws, in their original incarnation, were intended to briefly protect intellectual property long enough for the original author to profit from the work and sustain him or herself to make more works. As time progressed copyright laws were revised and the copyright window was extended (often jokingly called the Disney Effect as major revisions happen around the time Mickey Mouse is about to enter the public domain).
So what does this mean to you? It means that entire works of culture: movies, music, television shows, and even software and other digital creations, are effectively removed from the cultural pool. They’re locked up in corporate vaults or outright orphaned with no way of being put back into circulation. Here are some of the works that would have entered the public domain this year:
- The first two volumes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers
- Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (his own translation/adaptation of the original version in French, En attendant Godot, published in 1952)
- Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim
- Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception
- Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Check out the full article at the link below for a thoughtful look at copyright law and what it means when works are bound up instead of freed to the public sphere.
What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2011? [Center for the Study of Public Domain via O’Reilly Radar]