The Public Domain Review (a website devoted to the promotion of the free expression of ideas) has published a list of artists whose works will enter the public domain in some jurisdictions next year. In some countries this happens 50 years after the creator’s death. For those who died in 1966, as is the case with Evelyn Waugh, their work may enter the public domain in those countries in 2017. The major English language jurisdictions where this will happen are Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand. In other countries such as the UK, Ireland (and most of the EU), Australia and (subject to certain other complications) the US, the basic rule is 70 years after the creator’s death. Writers whose works will enter the public domain next year under the 70 year rule are Gertrude Stein and H G Wells. In the US, however, the window keeps moving as the Disney interests lobby for continued protection. It so happens that Walt Disney also died in 1966. Here’s the description of Waugh’s works in the Public Domain Review:
Primarily known as a writer of novels, biographies and travel books, Waugh was also a prolific journalist and reviewer of books. His most famous works include the early satires Decline and Fall (1928) and A Handful of Dust (1934), the novel Brideshead Revisited (1945) and the Second World War trilogy Sword of Honour (1952–61). Waugh is recognised as one of the great prose stylists of the English language in the twentieth century, the critic Clive James commenting that “Nobody ever wrote a more unaffectedly elegant English… its hundreds of years of steady development culminate in him”.
What this means as a practical matter for our readers in Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand is not exactly clear. But most of the rest of us will have to wait.
UPDATE (2 January 2017): The original posting said that Waugh’s works would enter the public domain in 2037. It is more complicated than that. See later post.