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Public Domain Day 2012: Five things we can do in the US
t’s New Year’s Day again, and in much of the world, this means another year’s worth of works enter the public domain. That’s a cause for celebration, as Europe and many other countries that have “life+70 years” copyright terms welcome works by James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Jelly Roll Morton, and Elizabeth von Arnim into the public domain. The Communia Project’s Public Domain Day website focuses on works by these and many other authors that are entering (in many cases, re-entering) the public domain in “life+70 years” countries. Meanwhie, folks in Canada, New Zealand, and other countries that have held the line at the “life+50 years” terms of the Berne Convention can now freely enjoy the works of people like James Thurber, Ernest Hemingway, and H.D.
There’s not so much excitement about Public Domain Day in the US, where no published works are scheduled to enter the public domain for another 7 years, due to a 20-year copyright extension enacted in 1998. But Americans don’t have to simply sigh and contemplate what might have been if our copyright terms hadn’t been extended. The new year still provides a number of important opportunities for Americans to improve access to the public domain.