How Putting James Joyce's Ulysses Into The Public Domain Will Breathe New Life Into Joyce's Work

from the the-public-domain-is-important dept

We’ve been hearing copyright maximalists lately talking nonsense about how bad the public domain is, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. So it may be interesting to see that, over in Ireland, people are expecting a newfound excitement for the works of James Joyce after Ulysses goes into the public domain there next year (though, not in the US). The Joyce estate has been infamously stingy in terms of letting anyone make use of Ulysses. Perhaps the most notable effort by grandson Stephen Joyce was to block all public readings of Ulysses, especially at the various “Bloomsday” celebrations, based on the book, which are supposed to be a celebration of Joyce’s life, but which have been notoriously limited by the estate, other than a single reading on Bloomsday which happens (of course) at the “James Joyce Centre.” So many Joyce fans are really quite excited about no longer having any such restrictions next year, and are looking forward to being able to properly celebrate Bloomsday. The end result, of course, will be renewed life breathed into Joyce’s work. What a shame that his own estate has restricted the use of the work for so long.

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Comments on “How Putting James Joyce's Ulysses Into The Public Domain Will Breathe New Life Into Joyce's Work”

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Richard (profile) says:


Joyce should have gone PD in 1992 – but for European copyright extensions.

I remember that when this was mooted in the UK a lot of play was made of the fact that Great Ornmond St children’s hospital was about to lose its Peter Pan income when JM Barrie’s copyrights expired. Of course what SHOULD have happened at that point is that some other public spirited rightsholder should have made a new donation to replace the expired one – but funnily enough that idea never crossed anyone’s mind – I wonder why? Instead we got 20 years more copyright on EVERYTHING. Thankfully Barrie’s copyrights have now been allowed to expire – and a replacement has been commissioned – but it would have been better if this had happened the first time (even better if another estblished author had followed Barrie’s lead – are you listening JK Rowling?)

Anonymous Coward says:

There will probably be a very short term boost from all the public domain supporters rallying around the flag, but given a short period of time, it will join the millions of other works in the public domain that are basically ignored, except for academic study.

Would you care to list all the other works that have made it to the public domain in the last 10 years and have become sudden successes? I doubt you can find many.

Dave (profile) says:


Would you care to list all the other works that have made it to the public domain in the last 10 years and have become sudden successes?

LOL!! Trick question! Nothing is entering the public domain for another 8 years and nothing has entered the PD for 12. Even the works in question are still copyrighted here in the US, so can it really be considered PD? Nice try, though.

A better one would be to list the successes that are currently in the PD, but there are too many of those for your troll to be successful.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:


Wow thats given me a great idea for a retelling about a Spaceship captain who gets lost in space on his way home. There’d be blue people and some sort of robot.

I think I saw that one already…something called Voyager or something like that. Good series, lasted like 8 years or something, but I hated the ending. The captain was a babe in like the 60s or 70s, but she also was a medicine woman in another shows set to the 1800s, and that show sucked, just like the ending of Voyager.

What were we talking about again?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


Here’s a better exercise. Look at some of the things that would have gone into the public domain this year were it not for retroactive copyright extensions:

Do you think we would suddenly start ignoring LoTR, Waiting for Godot, Horton Hears a Who and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?

Do you think that those works would become value-less? Do you doubt that there are people out there who would find amazing (and lucrative) new things to do with those works once they entered public domain?

If so, you must not have a particularly innovative mind…

ltlw0lf (profile) says:


it will join the millions of other works in the public domain that are basically ignored, except for academic study.

Man, you are so right here. Back when I was in my first year of college, I argued with my English Lit professor about a bunch of books he made us read and write reports on (yeah, the first year of college here is much like high school…you have to get through it and then you can study what you want.)

He gave us the list of works from long dead authors, and I argued with him that you just cannot find those works any more, because they are along with the millions of other works in the public domain that are basically ignored.

Didn’t work out so well for me…he still made me read those books, some guy named Homer wrote a bunch, and another guy named Shakespeare. And guys like Doyle, Twain, Dickens, Poe, Carroll, Verne, Wilde, Kipling, and Austen. Man, I couldn’t find any of those books anywhere, so I thought the teacher was a jerk.

The public domain is so overrated. Nothing worthwhile in that collection. Jeesh, even hollywood knows that, as they don’t even touch the public domain to pull any good current movies out of it. I mean, you can really only make one version of Romeo and Juliet or Tristen and Isolde before people get tired and move on…and Robin Hood sucked so bad they never even made that one into a movie.

Yup….the public domain is a waste. It should continue to be ignored like the cesspool it is.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


True innovative minds wouldn’t lose time on trivial things.

Trivial things like the play that defined absurdist drama? The novels that defined the entire genre of fantasy? The best-known play by America’s best-known playwright? One of the most beautifully allegorical works of one of the most beloved children’s authors?

You have a weird definition of “trivial”

ltlw0lf (profile) says:


Did you just mix up Kate Mulgrew and Jane Seymour? I’m kinda confused.


I know, they don’t even look like each other…not by a long shot…but both shows were running around the same time, and on more than a few occasions when I would say something about Voyager — someone would bring up that they liked her in Dr. Quinn, which always got me miffed. Jane Seymour is a great actress, but she isn’t Kate Mulgrew (who I think was the best choice for that role in Voyager, unlike the choice of Avery Brooks for Deep Space 9 — great actor, but poor actor for that role and I never really liked the character because he was too two-dimensional.)

Tongue was surely stitched in cheek for that one. I saw Dr Quinn maybe two or three times, and while it never appealed to me, it certainly didn’t “suck”.

The Star Wars Christmas Special on the other hand…

Eric says:

Not PD?

Why isn’t the Ulysees in the PD in the US? Since it was first published overseas (Paris) in 1922, its copyright term should have expired in the US. The only thing I can think of is Sec. 104A (the URAA), but restoration wasn’t available to works whose term had expired; it was only available for foreign works which were in the public domain due to failure to comply with required formalities or due to the lack of a reciprocal agreement with the country in question.

Eric says:

Not PD?

For works published prior to 1978, the term in the U.S. is 28 years plus a 67-year renewal term (total 95 years), and works published prior to 1923 are in the public domain (that it was published overseas is really irrelevant except for certain cases in the 9th circuit). The 70 years post mortem auctoris term doesn’t apply until 1978, which is why many things enter the public domain in the rest of the world but not in the U.S. See: Copyright Term and the Public Domain.

Eric says:

Not PD?

The first publication date isn’t really relevant: works first published outside the United States prior to 1923 are in the public domain. The longest term possible for a work was 75 years, so anything from 1922 entered the public domain on Jan. 1, 1998 (after 75 full years). The Copyright Term Extension Act did not extend those terms (17 USC 304(b)). Works published in countries that are treaty partners have the same terms as those published in the States (see 17 USC 104(b)(2) and (c)). Ulysses was published in Paris by Shakespeare & Co in 1922.

If this was somehow an unauthorized publication, that could explain it, but I haven’t seen any evidence that it was unauthorized.

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