Happy Public Domain Day!

It’s 2023, do you know where your copyright is?

That’s right, it’s not just New Year’s, it’s Public Domain Day! Whenever during the year they may have been registered, copyrights formally expire starting on January 1 of the year past their term. (Probably to simplify things for those poor guys manning various copyright offices, who have enough headaches already.)

In the U.S. this now means anything published prior to 1927 is out there to be marveled and and reworked into our common culture. Including all of Sherlock Holmes, several works by H.P. Lovecraft, and the first three books of the Hardy Boys. Wow.

…Er, if anyone crosses Sherlock, the Hardy Boys, and “Pickman’s Model” – it wasn’t me, I didn’t do it!

(We’ll have to wait until next year for Call of Cthulhu and The Dunwich Horror. Hmm.)

When it comes to Robert E. Howard, this bibliography page lists various things that are in the public domain now.

(Wow, Black Canaan is public domain… that is one of the creepiest stories I’d willingly re-read, ever. “He’d put me in de swamp!” chills the blood – and should.)

Ahem. I’m pointing this out in part because it’s just neat, and in part because I ended up growing up with these stories from old library books and used bookstores. They helped me through a lot of tough times. And this year’s looking like tough times all over again. But these stories are fair use now, and we should do just that – dig into our literary past, bring it forward to build new stories for the future!

SF, fantasy, and horror all used to fall under “weird tales”. I think we might want to revisit that connection.

…Granted, given what the characters in those stories dealt with, our modern heroes might want to bring the dynamite…. *Evil Grin*


21 thoughts on “Happy Public Domain Day!

  1. That’s going to be interesting! I didn’t grow up with too many of the older literature, my dad looked at the fact that he had A Lot of girls, and deliberately sought out and stocked our home with books that had strong female characters and leads. I grew up on sci-fi and fantasy.

    It’s ironically harder to get into older literature now because if you don’t know it exists to check it out, it’s hard to stumble across it. But man, do they slap so hard when you can find them.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Speaking of IP law, Foxfier put me onto a video by Shadiversity, talking a lot about creative commons, and fair use. I got about 2/3 into it before I had decided that I’d seen enough of his main points.

    I find it a little interested wrt to the Hardy boys.

    The later books establish them as the son of an FBI man. I just checked wiki, and that probably wasn’t true for the first three books, it wasn’t formally the FBI yet.

    I grew up rather hugely enjoying series of the Stratemeyer syndicate. Later in life, I became impressed with the principles developed early for maintaining a long running series for children. Philosophically, I think that the later practice of revising the content to fit current norms may have been in error. In practical terms, many of the ones that I enjoyed later were revised versions.

    The senior Tom Swift, and the earliest Bobbsey Twins are public domain. There are also things like the Rover Boys that didn’t get drawn into the update process, or sustained anywhere near as effectively.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Re: weird fiction and dynamite

    The late Shamus Young had a, I think now defunct, web comic based on screenshotting the LotR movies, and treating them as representing some fantasy role playing campaign. This inspired Darths and Droids, which does this for Star Wars.

    I think I’ve observed before that this sorta makes sense as an alternate origin for SG1.

    Somebody’s modern Call of Cthulhu campaign originally realized that the gates were /fun/, and retooled around them.

    This recollection inspired by the observation “Dynamite was available in the 1920s. Old explosives technology. I’m pretty sure that Lovecraft’s stories used dynamite. Might not moderns use /C4/?”

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Out of curiosity, I went and looked up if Arsene Lupin was in the public domain. Turns out that France has a limit of 70 years following the author’s death, which was in 2012, so Lupin has been public domain for a while.

    In France at least. I don’t know if that transfers over to the US as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The cynical part of me is now expecting these three properties to be the next victims of the Woke Reboots and for the originals to be shunned for what is now perceived to be their many cultural issues…

    Liked by 4 people

      1. They’ve been doing this to Sherlock and Lovecraft for a while, and the Stratemeyer syndicate has been redoing series to fit modern tastes for a long time.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. One of the advantages of fairy tales is that the names are as fickle as water.

    I once read a classic scholar trying to reason from the use of the name “Pyrrha” that a story had a connection to Little Red Riding Hood, apparently unaware that all evidence is that Perrault was the first to give her a red hat.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Nah, only their takes. And given how many variants there are in the public domain — I mean, some of their stuff is original and good, like the scene with Snow White lost in the woods, and all these monstrous eyes about her, that turn into gentle woodland creatures, but it would be too visual for me to rip off, anyway.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. On a completely unrelated note, I just finished reading Oni the Lonely!

    To keep from writing a ridiculously long review, I shall summarize: 😇👍👍

    Liked by 4 people

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