What Entered the Public Domain in 2013? Zip, Nada, Zilch!

2013whatcouldhavebeencollage2Last year, key works by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf finally entered the public domain, at least in Europe. (Find them in our collections of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books.) This year, we got pretty much bupkis, especially if we’re talking about the United States. Over at the website run by The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, they write:

What is entering the public domain in the United States? Nothing. Once again, we will have nothing to celebrate this January 1st. Not a single published work is entering the public domain this year. Or next year. In fact, in the United States, no publication will enter the public domain until 2019. Even more shockingly, the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Congress can take back works from the public domain. Could Shakespeare, Plato, or Mozart be pulled back into copyright? The Supreme Court gave no reason to think that they could not be.

The Center then goes on to enumerate the works that would have entered the commons had we lived under the copyright laws that prevailed until 1978. Under those laws, “thousands of works from 1956 would be entering the public domain. They range from the films The Best Things in Life Are FreeAround the World in 80 DaysForbidden Planet, and The Man Who Knew Too Much, to the Phillip K. Dick’s The Minority Report and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, to seminal articles on artificial intelligence.” Have a look at some of the others, several of which appear in the mosaic above.

Related Content:

Lawrence Lessig’s Last Speech on Free Culture. Watch it Online.

Lawrence Lessig Speaks Once Again About Copyright and Creativity



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  1. Alex says . . . | January 23, 2013 / 11:38 am

    It may seem somewhat criminal, but thankfully the internet bypasses the Copyright, which is a very powerful gain for the dissemination of all forms of knowledge offered free of charge to the poor. I have in my house thousands of books, movies and magazines, technically downloaded illegally.
    It is a loss to the cultural market? No.
    People like me, with free access to huge amounts of culture, evolve intellectually, will forward this thirst for knowledge and individuals will be much more creative, much more prepared professionals, content creators holders of more content.
    We must remember that Disney itself appropriated illegally much content to put on their films, and that the very idea of the cinematographer was used without being paid nothing to the creators of the equipment.
    The basis of all cultural revolution is in free access to knowledge for free, including those promoted by commercial interests.

  2. Chris says . . . | January 24, 2013 / 11:36 am

    This post made me really sad, but I’m glad people are drawing attention to it.

    Last year I worked on a magazine that celebrated the release of Ulysses into the public domain:

    http://bannermag.org/issues/issue-2

    It’s sad to think that we couldn’t do the same thing again in 2013 – especially as (I hope) the mag shows what you can do with the freedom to remix and reuse.

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