melodiousb: (Default)
[personal profile] melodiousb posting in [community profile] oldbooks
In the US, anything published before 1923--no matter where in the world it was published--is in the public domain. As I understand it, that date doesn't move forward until 2019. I'm not sure why. Beyond the basics, this gets really confusing (if you understand it, I'd love an explanation).

Many countries have much simpler rules. In Australia, it's Life + 70 years, unless the author died before 1955, in which case a book is definitely in the public domain. This means that there are a lot of texts on Project Gutenberg Australia that aren't available on the U.S.-based Project Gutenberg, but depending on where you are, it may not be legal for you to use them.

There are also a lot of countries that have a simple Life + 50 or Life + 70 policy. Other countries, like, say, France, are much more complicated. Wikipedia has a handy list that will help you figure out what is in the public domain where you are.

Date: 2010-09-24 06:24 pm (UTC)
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
From: [personal profile] twistedchick
The simplest answer I've heard as to why the public domain stops in the 1920s is this: Mickey Mouse. The Disney Corp. doesn't want to lose control of Mickey, whose first movie was in 1928, though I'm told that early versions of him appeared in the background of other cartoons a few years earlier. Every time there has been discussion of moving public domain forward, Disney sends in lawyers to stop it, and they'll keep sending in lawyers because it's cheaper than losing the rights to their founding character.
Edited Date: 2010-09-24 06:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-09-24 07:54 pm (UTC)
glymr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] glymr
This gels with what I heard, though Disney's not the only one - can you imagine if characters like Batman or Superman were suddenly in the public domain? DC might actually have to start hiring decent writers!

But seriously, I really wish they would come up with some sort of 'exception rule' for these cases, rather than spoiling it for everyone else. There is absolutely no legitimate reason why *every* title published in, say, 1924 should fall under these restrictions.

Not to mention, it is my understanding that the name "Mickey Mouse" and the associated symbols (the round head with two ears, etc) *can* be trademarked, even if they are out of copyright. So the company will still have ways to protect itself from imitators.

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