Could have been Public Domain on Jan. 1

Note: this post applies to readers in the U.S. only. Your country’s copyright laws may be much saner … for now …
Duke University points out that:
“prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1959 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2016”, works such as ….

  • Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers
  • Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
  • Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
  • E.R. Braithwaite, To Sir, With Love
  • William Burroughs, The Naked Lunch
  • Richard Condon, The Manchurian Candidate
  • Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day
  • Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum
  • Ian Fleming, Goldfinger
  • Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King
  • Strunk and White, The Elements of Style
  • C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination
  • Agatha Christie, Cat Among the Pigeons

Sixteen, going on Ninety-Five

What 1959 music could you have used without fear of a lawsuit? If you wanted to find guitar tabs or sheet music and freely use some of the amazing music from this year, January 1, 2016, would have been a melodious day for you under earlier copyright laws. The original Broadway version of The Sound of Music (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)—including the songs Sixteen Going on Seventeen, My Favorite Things, Edelweiss, Do-Re-Mi, Maria, So Long, Farewell—would be available. So would Love Potion No. 9 (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), Kind of Blue (Miles Davis, Bill Evans), What’d I Say (parts 1&2) (Ray Charles), and Come Dance With Me (Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen). Your school would be free to stage public performances of the classic songs from The Sound of Music. Or you could set a film to the music of Miles Davis. Today, these musical works remain copyrighted until 2055.

Sometimes I wonder whether part of the purpose of these overly-“protective” laws is to insure that these works are forgotten….


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