Thursday, January 7, 2010

What Could Have Been Public Domain

Under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1953

Casino Royale, Marilyn Monroe’s Playboy cover, The Adventures of Augie March, the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Crick & Watson’s Nature article decoding the double helix, Disney’s Peter Pan, The Crucible . . . .

Current US law extends copyright protections for 70 years from the date of the author’s death. (Corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years.) But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years (an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years). Under those laws, works published in 1953 would be passing into the public domain on January 1, 2010.

The 1950s were also the peak of popular science fiction writing. 1953 saw the publication of Robert Heinlein’s Starman Jones, Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation, and Arthur Clarke’s Childhood's End. Instead of seeing these enter the public domain in 2010, we will have to wait until 2049 — a date that, itself, seems the stuff of science fiction."

Read full article here.

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