public domainJanuary 1 is one day a year where I am glad to be Canadian. While normally I look on with jealousy as my American friends and family partake in a myriad of better shopping options, January 1 is my day to gloat—while America remains hamstring by Sonny Bono and Walt Disney’s efforts to restrict creative works from entering the public domain, Canada is still governed by ‘Life Plus 50’ rules, which see new works enter the public domain every January 1, 50 years after the death of their creators.

The public domain, to me, remains an important concept. It’s nice to be able to get books for free on Project Gutenberg, but there is more to the public domain than that. I do pay for my books, and I am all for authors having fair protections on their creative works during their lifetime and for a fixed tern afterward. But I also believe that culture is, in some ways, a shared thing. Authors get inspired, educated and influenced by those who came before them, and so their own works should return eventually to that great pool of common culture to inspire, educate and influence those who come later.

There has also been increasing evidence that overly lengthy copyright terms actually harm the availability of creative works, rather than protecting them. Techidirt has been covering the research of Paul Heald and summarize it thusly:

“What it shows is that while new books are available for sale, they quickly go out of print and are basically not available — until you get down to 1923, at which point the works are in the public domain. Think of all those works that are no longer available to buy in that major gap in the middle.”

So who is entering the public domain this week, in Life Plus 50 countries? Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, is probably the big one. Others include Rachel Carson and Flannery O’Connor. Happy Public Domain Day!

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. What bugs me more than the term of copyright (though I believe life plus 70 years is probably too long, being a real benefit to the estates of only a tiny handful of authors) is the fact that it can be extended retroactively. Can someone explain to me how extending the copyright on a work for a dead author is going to encourage him to produce more work? I suppose in a very tiny number of cases, it might encourage the estate to publish previously unknown works, but I think that is overwhelmed by the number of works that become unavailable during the long years between when the works fall out of print and when they enter the public domain.

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