So, another new year, and another collection of works that should have but won’t pass into the public domain thanks to Sonny Bono’s Copyright Term Extension Act. GigaOm has a good roundup of titles, drawing on the report from Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. They include some fairly popular titles, such as the movies Bridge on the River Kwai, Gunfight at the OK Corral, and 3:10 to Yuma, and the books How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat.
One noteworthy title is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, which seems ironic to me given that Objectivists would probably sniff at the idea of ever-lengthening government copyright protection.
But really, the noteworthy titles are the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands upon thousands of other titles that would interest far fewer people that were also frozen out. For example, nine Arsène Lupin novels by Maurice Leblanc published from 1924 to 1939 would have entered the public domain, including The Countess of Cagliostro and The Revenge of the Countess of Cagliostro, inspirations for the Hayao Miyazaki anime Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro. And there are plenty of specialty titles that would be of interest to fewer people than that, who would nonetheless be able to find them via the Internet were they made public.
Five years to go before more titles theoretically enter the public domain again. I say theoretically, because I expect Disney to again enter the fray to try to carve out an extension of its protection on Mickey Mouse before too long. If they win again, who knows if we will ever see anything come to the public domain in our lifetimes?