Public Domain Day 2005

From: Wallace J.McLean <ag737[_at_]>
Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2005 13:40:29 -0500

Once again the year rolls over, and a whole raft of old works fall into the public domain as their copyrights expire. Our collective past intellectual output moves from being "property" to being history, culture, and heritage.

Last year on this day, millions of pages of archival documents, whose authors had died before 1949, became public domain in Canada. This was the result of long-overdue amendments to the Copyright Act in 1998, which ended the perpetual copyright in unpublished “works.”

Unfortunately, there will not be another archival Public Domain Day for archivists, historians, genealogists, and others, to celebrate in Canada until January 1, 2049. This is because the 1998 amendments also provided that the “works”, including historical documents, by “authors” who died between 1949 and 1998 inclusive, would have a copyright term fixed neither to the life of the author nor the creation of the work, but to the coming-into-force of the amendment. Those unpublished literary works – the raw material of history – whose authors died between 1949 and 1998, will not be public domain for nearly another half-century. This, even though the published material by those same people will continue to become public domain.

For example, the unpublished letters of William Lyon Mackenzie King (d. 1950) will be “protected” by copyright until 2049. However, his published works became public domain four years ago today.

Similarly, a pamphlet by Agnes MacPhail (d. 1954), Convict or citizen? : the urgent need for prison reform, is in the public domain as of today. But her letters on this, or any subject, are not, and won't be for 45 years.

Isaac Pedlow's One hundred years of Presbyterianism in Renfrew County, published in 1930, is, as of this morning, in the public domain. His letters to Prime Minister Meighen, on the subject of railways, from the early 1920s, are not, and won't be for 45 years.

Herbert Brown Ames' The city below the hill: a sociological study of a portion of the city of Montreal, published in 1897, is, since you kissed your sweetie at midnight, in the public domain. But his 1902 letter to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, concerning a proposed subway for the city of Montreal, is not, and won't be for 45 years.

You get the picture.

But on to better news! There is, after all, still a Public Domain Day to celebrate in respect of published works. Are you wearing your party hats? (New Years Eve paraphernalia may be recycled.)

In the life+50 copyright universe, which comprises most of the world's countries and the majority of the world's people, including Canada, we will see the entry into the public domain of the published works of Soviet historian Robert Vipper; Swiss Jungian psychologist Ernst Aeppli; British Columbia author and educator Alice Ravenhill; historian Ferdinand Schevill; Dutch composer Henri Zagwijn; French musician and composer Léonce de Saint-Martin; Danish novellist Martin Andersen Nexø; American botanist Albert Francis Blakeslee; German ethnologist, philologist and historian Wilhelm Schmidt; Canadian economist Édouard Montpetit; American novellist and poet Elsa Barker; Danish poet and writer Martin Anderson Nex; American evangelist Frank Grenville Beardsley; Uruguayan poet Julio J. Casal; Bishop of Oxford Kenneth Escott Kirk; "western" writer William MacLeod Raine; American anthropologist Earnest Albert Hooton; Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; German historian Otto Scheel; American poet Walter Arensberg; Flemish artist Edgar Tytgat; British mathematician Alan Turing; physicist Enrico Fermi; French composer Jean Roger-Ducasse; American author ("Bobbsey Twins") Lilian Garis; Finnish writer and diplomat Hjalmar Johan Fredrik Procopé; Serbian philosopher Branislav Petronijevic; French historian and philosopher Henri Berr; American literary scholar Raymond Dexter Havens; German composer Hermann W S Waltershausen; "crank economist" E.C. Riegel; Canadian essayist and editor of Saturday Night B. K. Sandwell; Swedist novelist and playwright Stig Dagerman; American writer and social reformer Vida Dutton Scudder; Spanish poet and dramatist Jacinto Benavente; Canadian poet, novelist and historian William Douw Lighthall; German composer Walter Braunfels; French historian Edouard Dolléans; American artist and alpinist Belmore Browne; Scottish-American journalist and founder of Forbes magazine B. C. Forbes; English novelist and poet Francis Brett Young; Austrian composer Oskar Straus; American politician and writer Joseph P. Tumulty; American comic artist George McManus; poet Hans Lodeizen; Canadian novellist and historian Mabel Burkholder; English liturgical scholar and historian Francis C. Eeles; Argentinian composer, journalist, and director Manuel Romero; Montreal philanthropist and captain of industry Herbert Brown Ames; American musician and writer Ernest F. Wagner; Indian author Kalki ; Tin Pan Alley composer Arthur Brown; Brazilian poet and playwright Oswald de Andrade; Canadian composer C. F. Thiele; English philosopher and scholar Clement Charles Julian Webb; Canadian politician and Premier of Prince Edward Island J. Walter Jones; German scholar and theologian Werner Elert; American botanist David Fairchild; British politician John Allsebrook Simon; German historian Friedrich Meinecke; American zoologist and entomologist Herbert Osborn; British theologian Ernest Findlay Scott; American mathematician Julian Lowell Coolidge; American mathematician Leonard Eugene Dickson; Swedish novelist, essayist and poet Frans Gunnar Bengtsson; Russian writer Michail M Prishvin; British sociologist Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree; American ornithologist Arthur Cleveland Bent; American author Onoto Watanna; English literary critic and Shakespearean scholar Sir Edmund Kerchever Chambers; American urbanologist Frank Backus Williams; British legal scholar Thomas Baty; composer Peter Van Anrooy; Italian composer and pianist Franco Alfano; American composer Charles Ives; Soviet-era Russian author Boris Leontevich Gorbatov; French novelist Colette ; Armenian poet Arshag Tchobanian; Canadian composer Alfred Lamoureux; French art historian Émile Mâle; Russian ethnographer and linguist Dmitrii Konstantinovich Zelenin; Flemish historian Floris H.L. Prims; French photographer Claude Cahun; English clergyman and social critic William Ralph Inge; American feminist and politician Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence; Canadian composer Jean-Robert Talbot; American botanist and horticulturalist Liberty Hyde Bailey; American novelist and travel writer Alpheus Hyatt Verrill; American novelist Joseph Hergesheimer; American songwriter J. Rosamond Johnson; art historian John Kalf; British linguist and lexicographer Ernest Weekley; French artist Henri Matisse; Czech musician and composer D.C. Vackar; Australian novelist Miles Franklin; German writer, social scientist, and women's rights advocate Gertrud Bäumer; French scientist and mathematician Théophile Moreux; Swedish writer Gunnar Rudberg; American theologist Henry Sloane Coffin; German writer and editor Franz Pfemfert; Swedish oceanographer Walfrid Ekman; British philatelist Stanley Phillips; American author and editor Bliss Perry; American sociologist and educator Howard Washington Odum; American poet and critic Shaemas O'Sheel; Spanish essayist and novelist Eugenio d' Ors; Belgian sculptor Victor Rousseau; and Bulgarian author Nikolai Rainov.

Just to name a few. Phew.

Of interest to Canadians, in the life+70 copyright universe the works of J.E. Preston-Muddock will enter the public domain. (Except that, of course, post-1922 Preston-Muddock work will still be under copyright in the cultural lockdown that persists in the United States.)


The novelist who sometimes wrote under the pseudonym “Dick Donovan”.


He also wrote “The Sunless City”, first published exactly a century ago in 1905.

The hero of which was Flintabattey Flonatin. Whence the name of Flin Flon, Manitoba.

The dead hand of dead-letter copyright is lifted on the works of these, and many others, and society can recreate and build on the legacy they left us.

Short live copyright, and long live the public domain!

Happy Public Domain Day, 2005! Received on Mon Jan 03 2005 - 23:40:29 GMT

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