In 1976, the US Congress decided to extend the copyright on works that had been created with the understanding that they would enter the public domain after about 56 years (depending on whether the copyright was renewed after 26 years). This decision set the stage for a series of subsequent copyright extensions, each one coinciding, roughly, with the imminent entry to the public domain of the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons. Effectively, the public domain has ended
Every year, Jennifer Jenkins and James Boyle at the Duke Center for the Public Domain publish a list of works that could have entered the public domain on Jan 1, were it not for the 1976 Act. James notes, "as always, scifi seems to dominate. Points to notice... Minority Report would have been in the public domain, Around The World in 80 Days -- the movie -- should have been Around The World in 34,699 Days."
What books would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.
* Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Volume I and Volume II
* Philip K. Dick, Minority Report
* Ian Fleming, Diamonds are Forever
* Fred Gibson, Old Yeller
* Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues
* Alan Lerner, My Fair Lady
* Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night
* John Osborne, Look Back in Anger
* Dodie Smith, 101 Dalmatians
Here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years.
* Around the World in 80 Days
* The Best Things in Life are Free
* Forbidden Planet
* Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
* It Conquered the World
* The King and I
* The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 remake by Alfred Hitchcock of his 1934 British film)
* Moby Dick
* The Searchers (1956 film version with John Wayne from Alan Le May’s 1954 novel)
* The Ten Commandments (1956 version by Cecil B. DeMille, who also directed a similar film in 1923)