Christmas 2023 Roundup

–An article posted by the Duke University Center for the Study of the Public Domain has announced that beginning in January 2024, some books written by Evelyn Waugh will be out of copyright protection in the United States. Here’s an excerpt explaining the situation:

On January 1, 2024, thousands of copyrighted works from 1928 will enter the US public domain, along with sound recordings from 1923. They will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. This year’s highlights include Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence and The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, and a trove of sound recordings from 1923. And, of course, 2024 marks the long-awaited arrival of Steamboat Willie – featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse – into the public domain. That story is so fascinating, so rich in irony, so rife with misinformation about what you will be able to do with Mickey and Minnie now that they are in the public domain that it deserved its own article, “Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle.” Why is it a love triangle? What rights does Disney still have? How is trademark law involved? Read all about it here.

Here is just a handful of the works that will be in the US public domain in 2024… They were first set to go into the public domain after a 56-year term in 1984, but a term extension pushed that date to 2004. They were then supposed to go into the public domain in 2004, after being copyrighted for 75 years. But before this could happen, Congress hit another 20-year pause button and extended their copyright term to 95 years. Now the wait is over.

The list that follows includes Decline and Fall which was published September 1928 in the UK  but appeared in the United States in 1929. Whether that later US publication date has any significance is not addressed. Waugh’s first book Rossetti: His Life and Work was published earlier in 1928 in both the US and UK and would also be in the public domain in the US consistent with this article. What may be the situation in other countries than the US is not much discussed. I do recall reading that some of Waugh’s works were in the public domain in Canada a few years ago. According to one internet site, in the UK, copyright of a novel would continue until 70 years from the writer’s death. Since Waugh died in 1966, that would seem to extend the copyright protection in the UK until 2036. Here’s a link to the Duke University article.

–An article by Adam Douglas in this month’s Literary Review is entitled “To Brideshead Born” and begins with this:

My parents burdened me with two middle names. Three forename initials were commonplace once – sported by the captain of an MCC touring side in the 1920s, say – but nowadays they are a nuisance. Official forms allow for only one middle name, although if there is space I shoehorn both in, somehow feeling I am not myself without them.

The two middle names are Charles and Sebastian. My mother told me that one was chosen from each side of the family. But she misled me. They are the names of the leading characters of my father’s favourite book.

I now own the copy of Brideshead Revisited my father gave my mother as an engagement present. Raised Anglican, he went over to Rome, as the saying was, in 1959. Whether he did so purely to marry my mother, whose family tree boasted Jacobites out in the risings of both 1715 and 1745, as well as a couple of recusant bishops, is a moot point. But my father certainly drove his Morris to his second baptism with the lush cadences of Brideshead fresh in his mind.

The copy he gave her is not valuable. It is a third edition, confusingly described on the title verso as ‘New Impression 1952’. I would look it up, but there is no Evelyn Waugh bibliography…

Unfortunately, the remainder of the article is behind a paywall, but it might at least be worth mentioning that there is a bibliography of the works of Evelyn Waugh published in 1986. This was written by 5 well-known Waugh scholars headed by Professor Robert Murray Davis. That work cites (pp. 14-15) several editions of Brideshead, but the only one issued in 1952 was a reprint of the Penguin edition first published in paperback in the previous year. There is no UK hardback publication mentioned between a 1949 Readers Union/C&H edition in 1949 and a C&H “Reset” edition in 1960.

–A website called Letters of Note posted an article entitled “Christmas is a rotten hype & all we can do is ride it out: Letters of Noël”. The first of several entries is this:

“Oh the hell of Christmas cards.”

Evelyn Waugh
Letter to Lord Kinross
December 1953

The statement was included in a letter relating to the arrival of the gift of a present from John Betjeman. It was some sort of antique wash basin for which Waugh believed (wrongly as it turned out) that a part was missing. After the quote above about Christmas cards, Waugh closed with this: “How lucky to be Scottish–or has this beastly custom spread north?” (Letters, 416)

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all our readers.


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