Tagged: public domain

Public Domain Day 2016!

Happy 2016 from Digital Aladore!

January 1st brings us to another joyous Public Domain Day, the holiday where lots of people celebrate the New Year AND a new crop of works entering the public domain.

Sadly in America we have NOTHING to celebrate. Because of bizarre copyright extensions, we will not have any works entering the public domain until 2019. It is stunning to think that while the rest of the world is celebrating, the USA has not had a happy Public Domain Day since 1978… When copyright was first introduced in America the term was 14 years; current works now enjoy life of the author + 70 years, or if the work of multiple authors (corporate authorship) 95 years from publication. The extensions in 1978 and 1998 applied to retrospectively to old works, creating a crazy tangle of rules (check out a summary from Peter B. Hirtle), which highlights the nonsense of the move: the rationale for extended terms was incentivizing creation, but it seems hard to fathom it motivating a bunch of dead people! Meanwhile the preservation of our cultural resources has become illegal, with fragile artifacts such as our film heritage literally disappearing.

Here is what I said last year, and things have only gotten worse:

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!).

North of the border, in Canada things are more cheerful this year. The works of lot of great authors and thinkers will become freely available resources to drive current learning, thought, and creativity. Libraries and Archives will be able to legally preserve, digitize, and provide access to valuable cultural creations. Check out the Public Domain Review’s Class of 2016 for some highlights. However, there is a pall on the celebrations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal threatens to force countries to have a minimum of life+70 years copyright term.

A sad holiday indeed, learn more at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain:

“What do these laws mean to you? As you can read in our analysis here, they impose great (and in many cases unnecessary) costs on creativity, on libraries and archives, on education and on scholarship. More broadly, they impose costs on our collective culture. We have little reason to celebrate on Public Domain Day because our public domain has been shrinking, not growing.”

None-the-less, here at Digital Aladore we wish you all the Best for the New Year! 



More Public Domain Fun

Following on the Public Domain Day post from last week, I thought I should point out the Exciting and Interesting comic book discussion of fair use and copyright from the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain:


“Bound by Law?”  http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/digital.php

The comic book is a fun way to communicate about complex and poorly understood issues, but I think it also demonstrates another aspect of openness–open distribution.  The comic is licensed CC-by-nc-sa and you can get it in many different forms, recognizing many different potential users and uses.

If you want a nice physical copy, there is print versions available for purchase from multiple sources.  If you want to read online, there is the free HTML website or a Flash version (with more functionality than HTML, but requires Flash Player and more resources).  Further more, there are many different versions available for download, depending on your needs and resources:  two sizes of PDF, high res cover images for web or printing, or a zip of the individual page images for easy reuse.  There are links to versions in several languages, and even an edition without the text to facilitate users making their own translations.  That is OPEN!

More than just providing material free of cost, more than just publishing content, they are interacting with users, encouraging further creativity and thought.

If you want some more comics (relating to copyright!), check out “Mimi and Eunice’s Intellectual Pooperty” from Nina Paley, http://questioncopyright.com/mimi-book-ip.html

The page offers print booklets for purchase or a free CBR format version to download, and links to the free master files on Archive.org.  More comics are available at the main Mimi and Eunice site.  Nina Paley describes her approach to intellectual property as Copyheart: ♡2010 by Author/Artist. Copying is an act of love. Please copy.

For a more academic discussion of issues surrounding the public domain, check out James Boyle, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, http://www.thepublicdomain.org

Boyle’s website offers free download of several books and educational resources.

Public Domain Day 2015!

Happy 2015!

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!

Public Domain

Lets take a moment to reflect about public domain and openness…

We can use the text of Aladore because it is in the public domain.

We need to thank the digitizers for creating the digital surrogate and the various hosts for serving us up all the files.

Imagine how much entertainment and creativity this simple action supports!

However, it is worth questioning the format the text is offered in.  Digitized files are too often held possessively, locked in unusable formats to prevent fully free access.  For example, compare the online reader at Scholars Portal Books (http://books1.scholarsportal.info/viewdoc.html?id=75462#tabview=tab1) with the Internet Archive reader.  The procedure to download JPG’s mentioned in the last post is impossible with this reader because of the way the images are embedded.  Despite the fact that it relies on exactly the same type of content server, the JPGs have been carefully hidden by the java script.  Hathi and Scholars Portal Books provide access only via the online reader or PDF download.  In contrast, Internet Archive offers multiple formats for download.  We have seen that these formats are low quality due to the poor OCR and lack of editing–but at least they attempt to make the text more digitally open.

I think this type of openness is important moving forward with digitized materials–freeing the text from the printed page to take full advantage of the digital medium.  In software there is often a distinction made between Gratis (free of charge) software and Libre software.  Libre software is Free in terms of user’s rights (liberty), not only the monetary cost (see: http://www.fsf.org/about/what-is-free-software).  Public domain books in image based PDFs are free, but not really Libre, because the format is so limiting.   If the text is provided in a more open format, such as XML, it opens new worlds of analysis where the text can be broken free of the page–aggregated, viewed, remixed, or experienced in totally new ways.

We should also think about copyright for a minute: if you check out this chart outlining copyright in USA created by Cornell, https://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm you will notice that just decade after Aladore was published, copyright becomes a lot less clear–a ridiculous legal mess and a more restrictive future.  The hording of intellectual property is now a legal reality and big business model.  Canada’s copyright law is slightly simpler, for example skim this guide from University of British Columbia, http://copyright.ubc.ca/guidelines-and-resources/support-guides/public-domain.  It is still an absolute maze when it comes to films, orphan works, or books that contain other public domain text or artwork.

I think it is unfortunate that our culture continues to strengthen the powers of copyright.  At first glance copyright seems like a provision designed to protect authors.  However, in the current model the scales have tipped to allow traditional hoarders of capitol to hoard even more capitol (intellectual capitol).  Its not about authors or creativity.  And it does not acknowledge the collective, cumulative, and interactive nature of creation.  Nothing is an original.  Yet, companies like Disney are starting to make copyright claims about ancient cultural stories such as the Little Mermaid…

Here is an amusing video if you would rather watch something funny about copyright, “A Fair(y) Use Tale”: http://youtu.be/YLGNVIF0AYU

Or maybe this interesting documentary “Everything is a Remix”:  http://youtu.be/d9ryPC8bxqE

If you want to see some great articles that highlight digitized resources in the public domain, check out Public Domain Review.  They do a good job of finding fascinating things and providing some context to understand the objects: http://publicdomainreview.org


Poe’s Blackwood articles

In the last post, I mentioned that Aladore was first published in Blackwood’s Magazine.

While researching the publication, I noticed that Edgar Allan Poe wrote two short humorous pieces ridiculing the overly sensation stories typical in these magazines.  They were originally published as “The Psyche Zenobia” and “The Scythe of Time” in the The American Museum of Science, Literature, and the Arts (Baltimore: Brooks & Snodgrass) November 1838.   The stories were retitled “How to write a Blackwood article” and “A Predicament” in later collections and can be found in a number of free online editions of Poe’s writing.

As a quick test project, I decided to make a mini ebook of these two short stories.

I used two source files (witnesses) that are in the Public Domain and easy to access:

1) An edited HTML version from Project Gutenberg in The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume 4 (of 5) of the Raven Edition, eBook #2150, released 2008.  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2150

2) A scanned copy of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume IV (New York: A.C. Armstrong & Son, 1884) available at Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/worksofedgaralla04poeeuoft

To create the ebook, I used the great open-source editing software Sigil, which I will discuss in more detail in a future post.  Unfortunately, the project is no longer actively developed, but for more info you can check out:



For this test project, I started with the HTML text from Project Gutenberg and checked it against the scanned original making edits and upgrades as needed.  Sigil helps package everything together to create a proper EPUB file (more on epub another day).  I created a quick cover from a screen shot of a scanned book page, and an automatic table of contents. Then I edited the embedded metadata file.  Sigil automatically validates the EPUB, and it is good to go!

Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t allow upload of epubs, so I can’t just immediately share it here…

I need to find a good home for distributing the file, but for now I put it up on ge.tt.

Two stories by Edgar Allan Poe relating to that “justly celebrated publication” Blackwood’s Magazine: http://ge.tt/1FcuEHz1/v/0

Updated file location: Internet Archive, Community Text Collection, https://archive.org/details/PoeBlackwoodArticle

P.S. If you are sick of reading, some nice person also created a Public Domain audio book version of these two stories available at LibriVox:


P.S. I also forgot to mention that the stories are full of some stereotypes and language that is offensive to modern ears, as you might expect from nineteenth century satire…