In the US and Australia, we don’t get nothing entering into the Public Domain. The US from next year (unless Disney, the MPAA and the RIAA lobby really hard) will get works released in the 1920s entering the public domain. For Australia, I think we had works up to 1955 in our Public Domain and then the law got changed to be plus 70 years after death, so we will not get any works into our public domain until 2026. And these works will be from 1956.
And the Copyright industries are still pushing hard for longer copyright term extensions because once the person who created the works to be under copyright passes, it’s the corporation who benefits.
Now you need to remember, these works would have been in the Public Domain, under the Copyright Law that existed until 1978.
Basically all works from 1961 would be in the Public Domain this year.
“Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. 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 1961 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2018, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2057. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different—thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.”
So what books would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22
- J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
- Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
- William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine
- Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
- Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach
“The Soft Machine” by Burroughs broke all Copyright rules back then anyway as it was created by using the “cut-up technique,” where existing text from books got cut up and rearranged to create a new work.
The above books are but a fraction of what would be entering the public domain on January 1. And if they did enter the Public Domain, people would be free to use these books for whatever they want. Re-write their own versions of the books, modernise them, make them into space operas, make a film from them, create a stage play from them, write a concept album from the stories and so forth.
Instead, people from the U.S will have to wait until 2057 to have these works enter the Public Domain.
What films from 1961 would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s
- West Side Story
- The Guns of Navarone
- The Parent Trap
- Splendor in the Grass
- Judgment at Nuremberg
- The Misfits
- The Hustler
“If these films were in the public domain, you could use them in your own works, just as they used earlier works in theirs. West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents) was free to draw upon Romeo and Juliet because Shakespeare’s work was in the public domain. And as Judge Richard Posner observed, if the underlying works were copyrighted, “Romeo and Juliet itself would have infringed Arthur Brooke’s The Tragicall Historye of Romeo and Juliet . . . which in turn would have infringed several earlier Romeo and Juliets, all of which probably would have infringed Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe.” One work inspires another. That is how the public domain feeds creativity.”
While popular films have a larger shelf life and commercial life, 90% of films made are forgotten. The true tragedy is that these films are disintegrating while preservation libraries wait for their copyright terms to expire.
What 1961 music would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?
- Patsy Cline’s classic Crazy (Willie Nelson)
- Stand By Me (Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
- Runaway (Del Shannon, Max Crook)
- Let’s Twist Again (Kal Mann, Dave Appell)
- Surfin’ (Brian Wilson, Mike Love)
- Crying (Roy Orbison, Joe Melson)
Again, it’s just a sample; however you would be able to use the above songs in your own songs and perform them without permission or a fee. The same way the above songs used other songs as inspiration, you would be free to use them as inspiration. Instead these musical works remain copyrighted until 2057.
Like West Side Story, some of the hit songs from 1961 borrowed from earlier works. Elvis Presley’s Surrender (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) was adapted from the 1902 Neapolitan ballad “Torna a Surriento” (Ernesto and Giambattista de Curtis), and his Can’t Help Falling in Love (Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss) is derived from the 1784 French song “Plaisir d’amour” (Jean-Paul-Égide Martini).
A U.S Congressional Research Service study showed just 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old still make money. So for the sake of a few films and few corporations who benefits, the Public, which is millions upon millions strong is robbed.
“Locking up culture does no one any good, except for a small number of copyright holders on the few works that are still economically viable.”
The Public Domain Review page as a Class of 2018 article. Check out the class that should in the Public Domain all around the world, not just in some countries like the UK and Canada.