In addition to marking the New Year, January 1 is also Public Domain Day, the day when a fresh crop of works officially enter the public domain as their copyright expires! The Duke Law Center for the Study of the Public Domain puts it this way:
The end of the copyright term on these works means that they enter the public domain, completing the copyright bargain. Copyright gives creators – authors, musicians, filmmakers, photographers – exclusive rights over their works for a limited time. This encourages creators to create and publishers to distribute – that’s a very good thing. But when the copyright ends, the work enters the public domain – to join the plays of Shakespeare, the music of Mozart, the books of Dickens – the material of our collective culture. That’s a good thing too! (Public Domain Day 2015)
It is an exciting day at Digital Aladore where we rely exclusively on public domain content (and Free software). But its not a very happy holiday in the United States right now… Because exactly ZERO works entered the public domain thanks to the insane copyright extensions of 1998. In fact the extension ensures no works will enter the public domain until 2019! When copyright was first enacted in America the term was 14 years, but it has been gradually extended ever since. In 1998 copyright was extended to the life of the author plus 70 years or 95 years in the case of corporate authorship. But the reason we have no new works this year is because the law also retroactively applied an 95 year extension to ALL works copyrighted between 1923 and 1977… Seriously, that’s insanely long. It has NOTHING to do with benefiting and encouraging authors and artists. It is only about benefiting giant corporations and hoarders of capitol.
For more information about this sad holiday in America, check out the great site from the Duke Law Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Public Domain Day 2015. There are extensive articles explaining the legal and cultural situation, and teasers about all the works that SHOULD have entered the public domain this year…
In many other places the holiday is more cheerful! For example, in Canada copyright term is “life plus 50 years” meaning up north we will get to enjoy the full Class of 2015 put together by The Public Domain Review. Most of the European Union is “life plus 70”, but isn’t hobbled by the 95 year extension applied in the United States, so they will still get some holiday treats.
Recent research and economic modeling suggest that current copyright terms are too long and do NOT provide incentive for creation. Instead our shared culture is being locked away by corporate profiteers. In fact, the majority of works still protected by copyright are orphans–out of print with no likely hood of ever being used again commercially. Projects like Digital Aladore, Free software, and honestly the majority of the internet point out that creators aren’t purely profit driven. Its time to reform copyright to benefit the creators rather than hoarders of capitol (who already have plenty of power and wealth!).
Happy Public Domain Day and best wishes for the New Year!