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Tag: Public Domain

Happy Public Domain Day, 2021 Edition

It is the third annual public domain day in the United States. January 2019 was the first time in a long time that anything covered by copyright in the US entered the public domain. This year makes 3 years of stuff finally making it to the point that they can be freely distributed, built upon, reworked, or used however anyone wishes.

One cool option for using public domain material this year is to check out the Gaming Like Its 1925 game jam over on This game jam is hosted by Some very awesome people who are interested in promoting the public domain and working to make copyright work for the people once again. There are prizes available and just a lot of fun to be had there for all interested.

And just like every year, the Duke Law School has published an article highlighting many of the works that have entered the public domain at midnight last night. There is a ton of books, movies, music, non-fiction, and a lot more that are now available for anyone.

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Happy Public Domain Day US, For Real This Time!

Happy Public Domain Day Everyone! This is a momentous occasion as this is the first year since the 1978 Copyright expansion that the US has actually had one of these. Today, the first works from 1923 will enter the public domain in the US and it is a bittersweet moment for everyone who cares about the progress of art and science. Sweet for the wonderful works that people will be able to distribute freely without risk of being sued or jailed for doing so. Bitter for all the works that have been lost because the owner of the copyright didn’t care about preservation or because the copyright owner cannot be found.

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2018 Is The Last Public Domain Day The US Will Miss Out On

January 1st of each year is what is colloquially referred to as Public Domain Day. It is the day that works enter the public domain after their copyright terms have expired. At least in most countries outside the US. The US has gone decades without anything entering the public domain, but thankfully, 2018 will be the last year this is so. Unless Congress succumbs to the whims of the Motion Picture Industry and extends copyright again.

Every year, the Duke Law School publishes a report about the state of the public domain on January 1st and this year is no exception. This is what Duke had to say about the US.

What is entering the public domain in the United States? Not a single published work. Once again, no published works are entering our public domain this year.2 (Happily, works published in 1923 will finally begin to enter our public domain next year.) The only works that are clearly in the US public domain now are those published before 1923. But what about works published after that date? Does that mean that they’re still under copyright? Well, maybe. Citizens of the United States have to live with a frustrating lack of clarity about what older works they can use. Did the author comply with registration or renewal requirements when those were mandatory?3 The records are fragmentary and confused, the copyright holders hard to find. Perhaps some post-1923 works by the authors above are in the public domain. Perhaps they are still copyrighted. We have to live in a fog of uncertainty, uncertainty that benefits no one. By contrast, in Canada and the EU, the public will know on January 1 that all works by these authors are in the public domain.

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Molehill Mountain Episode 34 – Let’s Get Political!

This week’s episode of Molehill Mountain is chock full of political goodness.  Or badness.

Uh…  We talk politics!

25:33 – What does a tariff on imported goods mean to gamers?

43:36 – What does getting rid of net neutrality mean to gamers?

55:55 – Brad Bushman study gets trashed

1:03:40 – Capcom, Sherlock Holmes and the Public Domain

1:18:05 – More Nintendo Switch stuff

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Happy Public Domain Day Everyone Outside The US!

For all of us in the United States, January 1st is just New Year’s day. The day the calendar ticks another year. But for people who live outside the US in Canada, Europe and elsewhere, January 1st means something else entirely. It means today is the day that new works enter the Public Domain. This is the day that more of our culture becomes free to distribute, free to build upon , and free to do whatever we want with. Yet, because of terrible copyright laws in the US, we miss out on all this.

Prior to 1978, copyrights lasted only 28 years, with the option to renew them a single time for an additional 28 years. Then in 1978, Congress, under the guidance of companies such as Disney, extended copyrights to last the life of the author plus 50 years. That is what the rest of the world has today. But in 1998, Congress once again, at the bidding of companies like Disney, extend copyrights to last life plus 70 years for human authors and 95 years for corporate owned copyrights. This pushed the US out of line with much of the world and works in the US won’t start entering the Public Domain until 2019.


The Public Domain Once Again Loses In The New Year

thepublicdomain_2016newOriginally published on GamePolitics.

On January 1st of every year under US Copyright Law, creative and scientific works that have reached the end of their copyright terms go into the public domain. These works are then open for use and distribution by the public without restriction. Sadly, the 1976 copyright term extension passed by Congress have pushed pretty much all copyrighted works out of the public domain.

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Extended Copyrights In Games Means A Loss Of Culture For Gamers

There is a bit of a hubbub about video games and copyright going on right now. It all started with a post over on Rock Paper Shotgun about why John Walker thought that games need to enter the public domain. He has a lot to say and I recommend reading the whole thing before commenting on anything he has said. The short version is that too many games are lost to time and not available for anyone to purchase. If those games had entered the public domain, they would be more accessible for modern gamers.

Naturally, these comments got a lot of people in the games industry riled up. Not all comments were knee-jerk. There were some thoughtful ones. Particularly a post by Steve Gaynor, one of the Gone Home developers, made some great arguments about how back catalogs of games and other media help fund new works. Another great response was from Paul Taylor, Joint Managing Director of Mode 7 Games. In this one, Paul discussed the public domain and how living creators may feel when their works entered the public domain during their lives.

But I want to look at this in a slightly different direction, that of the game consumer. What does it mean for them if games don’t enter the public domain? First I want to show something that I think many of you may have seen. This is what is called the “Mickey Mouse Curve” of copyright extensions.

Mickey Mouse Curve

This graph shows the changes in copyright duration throughout US history. In the latter half of the graph, you see a correlation of copyright term extensions and the expiration date of Steamboat Willie’s copyright. Every time Steamboat Willie was about to enter the public domain, Disney lobbied Congress for an extension. It will once again be coming up for expiration in a few years, and we will probably revisit this debate.