Happy Public Domain Day 2018!

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) The Letter, oil on canvas, 55 x 47.5 cm (21 5/8 x 18 11/16 in.), National Gallery of Art from Wikimedia. In the public domain from 1/1/18

In many countries around the world copyright in literary and artistic works lasts for 70 years after the end of the year in which the author died. It is therefore becoming increasingly common to refer to the 1st January as ‘Public Domain Day’. Last year we had a great guest blog post from Posy O’Neill at Northumbria University on the topic. This year’s Public Domain Class of 2018 includes several notables who all died in 1947, including: Aleister Crowley, the English occultist, novelist and poet, the Belgian surrealist artist, René Magritte and Siegfried Sassoon the English poet, writer, and soldier. You can see a full list of works entering the public domain on Wikipedia. I noted on this list Sydney Webb, one of the founders of LSE –  I wonder if more of his writing might be digitised by LSE Library?

Cory Doctorow has also blogged about Public Domain Day, largely to highlight how the US does not have such a thing due to the complexities and quirks of their copyright law when it comes to duration of copyright.

You can learn more about the situation in the U.S. and why the public domain is important in this article in Huff Post Books and this excellent blog post from the Duke Law School’s Centre for the Study of the Public Domain. I hope to be finding out a lot more about this and other aspects of US copyright law when I start my online course, CopyrightX at Harvard Law School later this month. In the meantime, Happy New Year, Happy Public Domain day!

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