Waugh in the Public Domain (More)

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University Law School has posted a more detailed analysis of how the entry of Waugh’s works into the public domain will affect those countries such as Canada where that occurred yesterday. See earlier post. The introduction to the article (which displays a copy of the cover of the current Little, Brown edition of Brideshead Revisited) summarizes matters as follows:

Public Domain Day is January 1st of every year. If you live in Canada, January 1st 2017 would be the day when the works of Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Forester, and AndrĂ© Breton enter the public domain. Canadians can revisit Brideshead Revisited by staging their own dramatizations, or add the full works of Forester and Breton to online archives, without asking permission or violating the law. In Europe, the works of Gertrude Stein, H.G. Wells, and John Maynard Keynes will emerge into the public domain. And, due to a quirk in French law, Public Domain Day for Maurice Ravel came in May 2016 for France, when many of his compositions, including the popular and hypnotic Bolero, entered the public domain. In the US, Bolero is still copyrighted, preventing community orchestras from performing it because the sheet music is “simply too expensive.” (Footnotes omitted.)

Waugh, Forester and Breton all died in 1966; the others (except Ravel), in 1946. The article goes on to describe the legal quagmire in the United States created by successful efforts led by those such as the Disney lobby to extend copyright. Under this legislation, it appears from the article that Waugh’s works will not enter the public domain in the US until starting in 2024 for Rossetti–95 years following US publication in 1928. (This assumes compliance with all US filing and renewal requirements. Anyone with a better understanding of the law who believes this is incorrect is invited to comment below.) The saddest effect of this law is, as noted in the article, to prevent libraries and archives from preserving and disseminating even those works for which no copyright holder has been known to seek an extension. These are the so-called orphan works. 

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