In the USA, laws passed in 1976 and 1998 ensure that virtually nothing ever enters the public domain, but it's a different story in the rest of the world -- for now, at least.
In Canada, copyright endures for 50 years after the author's death, so this year, Canada is getting a bumper-crop of public domain works, including the works of TS Eliot, Winston Churchill, Nat King Cole, Malcolm X, Edward R Murrow, Spike Jones, Sonny Boy Williamson, Shirley Jackson, Albert Schweitzer, Fred Quimby and Somerset Maugham.
But Canada is on the verge of signing the Trans Pacific Partnership, which forces all 12 countries to sink to the level of the American program. If Canada signs on, this'll be the last year that Canada gets any new public domain works, until 2036.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is getting its own New Year's present for the public domain, while the Americans continue to wall themselves off from the freedom to make new works by interpreting old ones, to do deep scholarly research, to adapt works to assistive formats for disabled people, and to produce cheaper editions that can find their way into the hands of the record numbers of Americans living in poverty.
There has been extensive research (pdf) showing that copyright extensions diminish the value of the public domain in ways that are not offset by the additional compensation accrued to copyright holders. But the greatest damage is not necessarily economic; lesser-known and orphaned works are vulnerable to being lost entirely. Jennifer Jenkins, director of the CSPD, tells Quartz: “Films are literally rotting in their cans. They are turning into dust.”
Despite these criticisms, the US has repeatedly pursued efforts to “harmonize” the rest of the world around 70 year copyright terms.
The latest such effort is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which, if ratified, would require its 12 signatories to adopt a minimum copyright term of 70 years after death. If that happens, works by André Breton and Evelyn Waugh would not enter the public domain in Canada next year, as they are currently expected. It will ensure a smaller, sadder Public Domain Day for them—but at least Americans would have their northern neighbors to commiserate with.
Wikilivres:1965 deaths, therefore now in the Public Domain
It’s Public Domain Day and once again Americans get almost nothing
We’ve followed Annalee Newitz’s career here for more than a decade, from her science writing fellowship to her work as an EFF staffer to her founding of IO9 and her move to Ars Technica and the 2013 publication of her first book, nonfiction guidance on surviving the end of the world and rebooting civilization: now, I’m pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from Autonomous, her debut novel, which Tor will publish in September 2017, along with the first look at her cover, designed by the incomparable Will Staehle. As her editor, Liz Gorinsky, notes, “Autonomous takes an action-packed chase narrative and adds Annalee’s well-honed insight into issues of AI autonomy, pharmaceutical piracy, and maker culture to make a book that’s accessible, entertaining, and ridiculously smart.” I’m three quarters of the way through an early copy, and I heartily agree.
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The $38 Millennium Falcon wall clock is handmade to order from plywood, birch and MDF by Hamstercheeks in Nottingham, UK, who uses a laser-cutter to turn orders around in 2-5 business days (the clock itself is an AA-powered quartz sweep movement). (via Geekymerch)
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