Works in the Public Domain can be reproduced and made publicly available freely. Which is a pretty great thing for students and educators alike. Really, it’s great for everyone who values the craft of writing.
But putting a focus on the importance of Public Domain in academia, the vital works of writers from generations past become readily available through these copyright laws.
What is Public Domain?
The public domain includes any creative work no longer held to exclusive intellectual property rights. This includes rights expired or intentionally waived.
In most countries the copyright expires 70 years after the creator’s death. That means every year more and more works enter the public domain, becoming freely available for anyone to recreate and, most importantly, read.
What’s notable about this year is that, for the first time in two decades, works in America are once again entering the public domain. This change is set to continue as well, a boon for anyone interested in freely enjoying culture from generations past.
For academics fearful of quoting from copyrighted texts, teachers who may be violating the law with every photocopy, and modern-day artists in search of inspiration, the event is a cause for celebration.
-Glenn Fleishman, Smithsonian.com
The change in copyright law came due to pressure from Disney, who sought to protect their copyright on Mickey Mouse. The first Mickey adventure, Steamboat Willie, was aired in 1928 and scheduled to enter the public domain in 2004. But the US Congress passed a law pushing back the expiration an additional twenty years in 1998. Landing us here today, celebrating the first release of copyright material in a generation.
What Works are we Getting?
Publicdomainreview.org offers a great review of the highlights, but I want to mention just a couple here today.
New Hampshire by Robert Frost – Claiming the 1923 Pulitzer with this volume of poetry, Frost’s beloved work includes the popular “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” among many other poems.
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran – While perhaps not as renown as Frost’s volume, Gibran’s poetry has been continuously in print since 1923, with more than 9 million volumes sold and translated into 108 languages (source).
Both of these will be important works for literary students and educators to access freely.
And now that the freeze on copyright expiration is over, more works are set to release each year going forward.