Happy Public Domain Day! Unless, Of Course, You’re In The U.S.

pdd2014Yep, it’s the first of January, and time to celebrate all of those great books, stories, characters, films, recordings, and everything else that enters the Public Domain today.

So what new treasures are on tap to enter the P.D. this year? Well, according to The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School, if it weren’t for the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978) this would be the year that works from 1957 would be entering the P.D. (and don’t forget that anything prior to that would already be there) So, among the list of books would be:

  • Samuel Beckett, Endgame (“Fin de partie”, the original French version)
  • Jack Kerouac, On the Road (completed 1951, published 1957)
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Margret Rey and H.A. Rey, Curious George Gets a Medal
  • Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat
  • Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, The Untouchables
  • Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays
  • Walter Lord, Day of Infamy
  • Studs Terkel, Giants of Jazz
  • Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley, The Three Faces of Eve
  • Ian Fleming, From Russia, with Love
  • Ann Weldy (as Ann Bannon), Odd Girl Out
  • A.E. Van Vogt, Empire of the Atom


Then there are the films and TV shows,, such as:

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (Based on Richard Matheson’s 1956 book The Shrinking Man)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Alec Guinness); also starring William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa)
  • A Farewell to Arms (Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones)
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas)
  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957 original starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin)
  • Island in the Sun (James Mason, Joan Fontaine, Dorothy Dandridge, and introducing Harry Belafonte)
  • Witness for the Prosecution (Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester)
  • 12 Angry Men (Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, and more)
  • Sweet Smell of Success (Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis)
  • Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley)
  • The Prince and the Showgirl (Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe)
  • Funny Face (Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire . . . and Paris as only Hollywood can imagine it)
  • An Affair to Remember (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr . . . and the Empire State Building)
  • Nights of Cabiria (written and directed by Federico Fellini and starring Giulietta Masina)
  • The Seventh Seal (written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot)
  • What’s Opera, Doc? (Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd do Wagner)
  • The first episodes of Leave It to Beaver and Perry Mason
  • Elvis Presley’s third and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 6, 1957 (CBS refused to show his gyrating hips)

And then there are all of the sound recordings and artworks and other cultural artifacts, and that doesn’t begin to take in the items from 1985 whose copyright would be up for renewal this year, meaning it would be up to the copyright holder to decide if it were worth it to renew the copyright or not.

So what will actually be entering the U.S. Public Domain this year?

Just as has been the case every year since 1978, the answer is simple:


Yep, You read that right.


incredibleshrinknigpdgreyAs a matter of fact, nothing will be entering the Public Domain here in the U.S. until at least 2019.

Again, yes, I said 2019.

Oh, and the items I mentioned above? Yeah, we’ll have to wait until at least 2053 for them.

And that’s assuming that congress doesn’t pass another extension to the Copyright Act between now and then.

And yes, that extension is already under consideration.

I’m not going to go into a lot of the background of the public domain and why it’s so important, nor am I going to go into the history of the Copyright Act and why things are in the sad state they’re in. All of that information can be found at the Duke Law Center website , along with information about other works that would also be included in the “Class of 2014”

4663860075_195d7ac4f6_bI will, however note that for those of you interested in further exploring the treasures that can be found in the Public Domain and my own personal take and reviews on many of them, I used to run another blog, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest which, though I quit updating it a while back for a number of reasons, still has quite a number of reviews and articles about things that actually are currently in the Public Domain. And some of them may surprise you.

Anyway, here’s to What Could Have Been!

2 thoughts on “Happy Public Domain Day! Unless, Of Course, You’re In The U.S.

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