Public Domain Day


Take these examples: Billy Bishop’s Winged warfare : hunting the Huns in the air; Ernest Bilodeau’s Autour du lac Saint-Jean; C.A. Chant’s Our wonderful universe; the Earl of Bessborough’s A week on the Jupiter River, Anticosti Island; Maurice Lalonde’s Notes historiques sur Mont-Laurier, Nominingue et Kiamika; and Mina Benson Hubbard’s A Woman’s Way Through Unknown Labrador are all in the public domain in Canada as of this morning.

Yet a March 15, 1939 letter from Billy Bishop to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King; the papers of Ernest Bilodeau; C.A. Chant’s astronomical notebooks; Lord Bessborough’s letters and documents pertaining to his tenure as Governor-General of Canada; Maurice Lalonde’s political correspondence; and Mina Benson Hubbard’s exploration diaries; will all be protected from unfettered use by Canadians for another 42 years.

Note that through most of our collective history, copyright has been the anomaly and the public domain has been the default.

4 Responses to “Public Domain Day”

  1. Dave F.

    You think you’ve got problems… thanks to the Sonny Bono act, nothing in the U.S. will enter the public domain by default till 2019.

    (I say by default since an author can deliberately release a work to the public domain.)

    I don’t know what the “right” length would be — I’m not so devoted to rights to atoms (physical property) as to exclude rights to bits (intellectual property). 70 years after the death of the author does seem a bit lengthy.

  2. Dave F.


    It’s not a bad compromise. In a way, with the rapid pace of information, you could argue that 14 years is a hell of a long time.

    I do think on the one hand there’s a lot to be said for giving away a good deal of your intellectual property (demonstrating what your potential might be, increasing knowledge/awareness, etc.). At the same time, it’d be good to reap some financial fruit from the application of your talent.

    Not that I’ve hit that point yet.

    Copyrights, patents, and trademarks are all coming up against new ways of thinking — but each field contains many longtime stakeholders, and the biggest players can afford Jarndycian legal action.

    There are those who note that the Sonny Bono Act came into play just as the first mouse drawings by one Walter Elias Disney were about to fall into the public domain.

  3. Harold

    Like you, Dave, I think that we should share as much as possible, which is why I use a Creative Commons license for this website, and encourage others to use “copyleft”. Founders’ copyright might be best for books and things like that.


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