Nothing to celebrate on Public Domain Day 2010 in the US

4 01 2010

What child has not sat starry-eyed around the fire, dreaming of the goodies to come on January 1—Public Domain Day? The thought of new books and movies and music coming out from copyright is enough to send sugarplums dancing through heads, unless you live in the US in 2010. In which case, you have nothing to celebrate, since nothing is entering the public domain this year.

Thanks to various copyright terms extensions over the last four decades, the US is living in the midst of a public domain “donut hole” under which no important works will come out of copyright protection. Before the 1976 Copyright Act reforms, copyright in the US lasted for 28 years, with another 28 if an extension was applied for. Under the old regime, works from 1953 would have entered the public domain this week, works like C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair and Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March.

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