Reading a Facebook post by Jane Friedman, she reminded readers that important works will come into the public domain on Jan. 1, 2019. Of course, there are also movies, music, and works of art coming as well. Of particular importance, as The Atlantic pointed out, is the fact that a whole year’s worth of copyrighted works are affected. In 1998, the Sonny Bono Copyright Act extended the term of copyright, meaning that we spent about twenty additional years “waiting” for key works to be available publicly, without copyright control. Works first published in 1923 will be opened for us to create new works or simply read them without the addition of a copyright fee. Lifehacker (https://lifehacker.com/these-1923-copyrighted-works-enter-the-public-domain-in-1825241296), also noting this seismic event, has provided a long list of works (scroll down for their list of chosen books).
The one that haunts me is the short story, Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street. This, plus an unfinished short story called “The Prime Minister,” were the basis of her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925 (meaning we need to wait two more years to get our public domain hands on it). I love this work for its interiority. The reason I like books with interiority is, for me, full interiority is unique to books. Setting, character, and plot can be found in books, movies, and TV, but interiority is elusive. What’s going on inside a character’s head can be interpreted and partly conveyed by actors, but full interiority, conveyed by the author directly to a reader, can only be fully available in books. Mrs. Dalloway isn’t the only “interior” book in the world, but it’s the one that gave me an “aha” moment when I began writing myself.
As the Lifehacker article points out, not quite everything published in 1923 will come into the public domain, only works with an authorized publication in 1923, so you have to check, but we are finally beginning to see a true expansion of the public domain and that’s the ultimate gift for the new year.
I suggest that you find a book on the list and indulge yourself in the new year by reading it, knowing that it will be there for you, your children, and your children’s children. Maybe one of the books on that list will prompt an “aha” moment, as I experienced. That’s what the gift of reading and the public domain has to offer us.