What would have entered the public domain in 2014?

January 4th, 2014 | Category: Copyright

Prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which went into effect in 1978) the max length of copyright was 56 years (the initial 28 plus an optional renew for 28). So works from 1957 would be entering the public domain this year.

That includes:

Plays and Books: Samuel Beckett: Endgame, Jack Kerouac: On the Road, Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged, Dr. Seuss: How the Grinch Stole Christmas & the Cat in the Hat, Ian Fleming: From Russia, with Love.

Movies & TV: Richard Matheson: The Incredible Shrinking Man, David Lean: The Bridge on the River Kwai, the Burt Lancaster & Kirk Douglas version: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the Glenn Ford & Van Heflin version: 3:10 to Yuma, 12 Angry Men, Sweet Smell of Success, Jailhouse Rock, Funny Face, An Affair to Remember, early Leave It to Beaver, early Perry Mason, Elvis Presley’s third and final appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Music: That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, Great Balls of Fire, All Shook Up, Jailhouse Rock, Shostakovitch: Symphony No. 11, Bernstein & Sondheim: West Side Story.

And that’s really only a small portion. Typically only 15% of copyright holders renewed past the initial 28 years. So that would mean that 85% of the works created in 1985 would also be entering the public domain.

The truth is that only the famous works, like those listed above, would have been renewed (for books, the renewal rate was only 7%!), since most things exhaust their commercial value rapidly. So the real harm of auto-renewal and the extended terms is that in most cases the copyright holder is not receiving any significant royalties and the works are often commercially unavailable and off limits because of the continued copyright. Neither the creator nor the public benefits from the extension.

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