Meera Nair

Happy New Year

In Posts on January 1, 2012 at 7:59 am

Happy Public Domain Day!

January 1 marks the celebration of a new year, and, a celebration of old works. As in previous years, publicdomain publishes* an extensive listing of some of the authors whose works  can now be freely enjoyed. The author writes, “Copyright is necessary for our cultural life and cultural economy. But so is copyright expiration, allowing us all to build on the collective cultural and intellectual past of our own countries and of the entire world.”

This is a made-in-Canada site; it includes information for our life-plus-fifty copyright term. (The author also addresses the life-plus-seventy realms.) 1961 is the transition point for this year’s largess; the works of creators who passed away in 1961 became full-fledged members of the public domain at 12:01am this morning.

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School also marks the occasion. So too does Communia; see here. But the public domain is not confined to works whose copyright term has expired. As I have written elsewhere, it also includes: “the realm of all works which can be exploited by everybody without any authorization.” Meaning, works put to use through legitimate exceptions (i.e. fair dealing / fair use) are public domain. Our public domain comes into existence, not just by the expiration of copyright, but also by the boundaries of copyright.

* Previous references to the work of publicdomain are here and here.

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