by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 11th 2014 5:44am
We're obviously big supporters of the public domain here at Techdirt, and frankly, believe that many more works should be in the public domain. In fact, we treat our own articles, written by staffers here, to be public domain, even though there's no official legal mechanism to officially put them in the public domain. We can only proactively state that we will treat them as such. And, of course, thanks to the switch from "opt-in" copyright to "everything eligible is automatically covered by copyright" in 1976, combined with ever-farther-reaching copyright term extension, nothing has officially entered the public domain in the US in ages. In the past, I've often relied on the handy website set up by my alma mater, Cornell, in trying to determine what is and what is not in the public domain, but that's somewhat limited. So it's great to see that the folks over at the Samuelson Clinic at Berkeley have developed a detailed handbook to determine what is in the public domain, which comes complete with this handy-dandy (if not altogether simple) graphic:
The handbook itself (embedded below, based on their Creative Commons license -- which I'll note, is not CC's CC0 public domain dedication) is 52 pages going into detail explaining some of the details and nuances of the graphic. It's actually quite handy in many ways, but it still seems... wrong that the public domain should ever need a 52-page handbook just to figure out if a work is or is not actually in the public domain. It really seems to drive home just how much we've sidelined the public domain and created permission culture instead. Oh, and, you'll note that for stuff published after January 1, 2003, the only way for anything to actually go into the public domain... is for the copyright to expire (in other words, no real way to put these works into the public domain).
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