Public Domain Day, 2021: Works from 1925 are in the Public Domain!

Every year, on January 1st, previously copywritten works enter the public domain and are free for all of us.

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School does an amazing job of bringing awareness to the importance of the public domain Every year, they write a post highlighting the works entering the public domain. This post celebrates the works of 1925.

January 1, 2021 is Public Domain Day: Works from 1925 are open to all!

By Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain

Montage of 1925 Works

On January 1, 2021, copyrighted works from 1925 will enter the US public domain,1 where they will be free for all to use and build upon. These works include books such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, and Franz Kafka’s The Trial (in the original German), silent films featuring Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, and music ranging from the jazz standard Sweet Georgia Brown to songs by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, W.C. Handy, and Fats Waller.

This is not just the famous last line from The Great Gatsby. It also encapsulates what the public domain is all about. A culture is a continuing conversation between present and past. On Public Domain Day, we all have a “green light,” in keeping with the Gatsby theme, to use one more year of that rich cultural past, without permission or fee.

Works from 1925 were supposed to go into the public domain in 2001, after being copyrighted for 75 years. But before this could happen, Congress hit a 20-year pause button and extended their copyright term to 95 years.2 Now the wait is over.

In 2021, there is a lot to celebrate. 1925 brought us some incredible culture. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. The New Yorker magazine was founded. The literature reflected both a booming economy, whose fruits were unevenly distributed, and the lingering upheaval and tragedy of World War I. The culture of the time reflected all of those contradictory tendencies. The BBC’s Culture website suggested that 1925 might be “the greatest year for books ever,” and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books such as Gatsby, or The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers, while characters such as Jay Gatsby, Hemingway’s Nick Adams, and Clarissa Dalloway still resonate today.

How will people celebrate this trove of cultural material? The Internet Archive will add books, movies, music, and more to its online library. HathiTrust will make tens of thousands of titles from 1925 available in its digital repository. Google Books will offer the full text of books from that year, instead of showing only snippet views or authorized previews. Community theaters can screen the films. Youth orchestras can afford to publicly perform, or rearrange, the music. Educators and historians can share the full cultural record. Creators can legally build on the past—reimagining the books, making them into films, adapting the songs.

Here are some of the works that will be entering the public domain in 2021. (To find more material from 1925, you can visit the Catalogue of Copyright Entries.)

 

Books

'On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs' by Dorothy Scarborough book cover
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time
  • Franz Kafka, The Trial (in German)
  • Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy
  • John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer
  • Alain Locke, The New Negro (collecting works from writers including W.E.B. du Bois, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Eric Walrond)
  • Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
  • Agatha Christie, The Secret of Chimneys
  • Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves
  • W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil
  • Dorothy Scarborough, On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs
  • Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction
  • Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto, A Daughter of the Samurai

Films3

'The Unholy Three' movie poster
  • Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman
  • The Merry Widow
  • Stella Dallas
  • Buster Keaton’s Go West
  • His People
  • Lovers in Quarantine
  • Pretty Ladies
  • The Unholy Three

 

(Yes, there was a film called Lovers in Quarantine, though it was a comedy, and they only had to quarantine for a week.)

 

Music

Sidney Bechet
  • Always, by Irving Berlin
  • Sweet Georgia Brown, by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard & Kenneth Casey
  • Works by Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, the “Mother of the Blues,” including Army Camp Harmony Blues (with Hooks Tilford) and Shave ’Em Dry (with William Jackson)
  • Looking for a Boy, by George & Ira Gershwin (from the musical Tip-Toes)
  • Manhattan, by Lorenz Hart & Richard Rodgers
  • Ukulele Lady, by Gus Kahn & Richard Whiting
  • Yes Sir, That’s My Baby, by Gus Kahn & Walter Donaldson
  • Works by ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton, including Shreveport Stomps and Milenberg Joys (with Paul Mares, Walter Melrose, & Leon Roppolo)
  • Works by W.C. Handy, including Friendless Blues (with Mercedes Gilbert), Bright Star of Hope (with Lillian A. Thorsten), and When the Black Man Has a Nation of His Own (with J.M. Miller)
  • Works by Duke Ellington, including Jig Walk and With You (both with Joseph “Jo” Trent)
  • Works by ‘Fats’ Waller, including Anybody Here Want To Try My Cabbage (with Andrea “Andy” Razaf), Ball and Chain Blues (with Andrea “Andy” Razaf), and Campmeetin’ Stomp
  • Works by Bessie Smith, the “Empress of the Blues,” including Dixie Flyer BluesTired of Voting Blues, and Telephone Blues
  • Works by Lovie Austin, including Back Biting Woman’s BluesSouthern Woman’s Blues, and Tennessee Blues
  • Works by Sidney Bechet, including Waltz of Love (with Spencer Williams), Naggin’ at Me (with Rousseau Simmons), and Dreams of To-morrow (with Rousseau Simmons)
  • Works by Fletcher Henderson, including Screaming the Blues (with Fay Barnes)
  • Works by Sippie Wallace, including Can Anybody Take Sweet Mama’s Place (with Clarence Williams)
  • Works by Mrs. H.H.A. (Amy) Beach, including Lord of the Worlds Above, Op. 109 (words by Isaac Watts, 1674–1748), The Greenwood, Op. 110 (words by William Lisle Bowles, 1762–1850), The Singer, Op. 117 (words by Muna Lee, 1895–1965), and Song in the Hills, Op. 117, No. 3 (words by Muna Lee, 1895–1965)

Note that only the musical compositions referred to above are entering the public domain. Subsequent arrangements, orchestrations, or recordings of those compositions, such as the recording of Sweet Georgia Brown by The Beatles and Tony Sheridan, might still be copyrighted. You are free to copy, perform, record, or adapt the composition, but may need permission to use a specific recording of it.4

We have featured some influential Black artists on this list because they deserve particular recognition. While it is worth celebrating the entry of their works into the public domain, it is also necessary to realize that not all artists were able to benefit from the copyright system during the copyright term. It would be impossible to overstate the contribution of Black musicians to American music. Yet these artists were routinely excluded from the copyright system, either because of racist business-practices, legal formalities that disproportionately affected minority musicians, or unequal access to the tools of the law themselves. Many never received credit or compensation for their songs. The artists above were unusual in that they actually had works attributed to them, rather than being simply stolen—evidence of their remarkable ingenuity in the face of a colossally unfair system. But the fact that they received credit does not mean that they were fairly compensated for their work. Discrimination, segregation, lopsided contracts, and an exclusionary music business deprived many of these musicians—Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, and others—of the full payment their work so richly deserved.5

Why celebrate the public domain? Rediscovering the past, nurturing the future

A wellspring for future creativity. The goal of copyright is to promote creativity, and the public domain plays a central role in doing so. Copyright law gives authors important rights that encourage creativity and distribution. But it also ensures that those rights last for a “limited time,” so that when they expire, works can go into the public domain, where future authors can legally build upon their inspirations. As explained by the Supreme Court:

[Copyright] is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors by the provision of special reward, and to allow the public access to the products of their genius after the limited period of exclusive control has expired.” Sony v. Universal (1984).

In 2021, anyone can use these works as raw material for their own creations, without fear of a lawsuit. What kinds of things will people do with public domain works? In 2020, jazz composers and arrangers David Berger and Chuck Israels released The Public Domain Song Anthology. As described in the book’s announcement, it collects 348 songs that can be “studied, performed, adapted, and shared without constraint.” Better yet, “contributions by Berger and Israels have been gifted to the public domain as well, which will help to both preserve and give new life to the rich legacy of these songs—many of which are at risk of being forgotten or overlooked.” For a preview of the songs entering the public domain in 1925, listen to the excellent Bob Schwartz quartet preform a medley of songs from 1925. Bravo! Other reuses inspired by the public domain include Techdirt’s annual public domain game jam that invites designers to create games based on newly public domain works, and the Internet Archive’s contest for the best short films using works set to enter the public domain.

The Great(er) Gatsby? After 95 years of exclusivity, The Great Gatsby is now entering the public domain, where it will be freely available to the next Fitzgerald…. What might future creators do with The Great Gatsby? They could make it into a film, or opera, or musical. Importantly, they could do so even if they did not have the financial resources that were required to license the book for the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Baz Luhrmann. For future filmmakers The Great Gatsby will be as free as…. Romeo and Juliet. But the public domain does not just bring financial freedom, it also provides cultural leeway. Someone could reimagine the story with a more inclusive cast, or set in a different era. They could reinterpret it, tell it from the perspective of Myrtle or Jordan, or make prequels and sequels. In fact, novelist Michael Farris Smith is slated to release Nick, a Gatsby prequel telling the story of Nick Carraway’s life before he moves to West Egg, on January 5, 2021. As explained in a New York Times editorial:

When a work enters the public domain it means the public can afford to use it freely, to give it new currency… [public domain works] are an essential part of every artist’s sustenance, of every person’s sustenance.6

Looking toward the book’s entry into the public domain, Blake Hazard, Fitzgerald’s great-granddaughter, was reflective: “We’re just very grateful to have had it under copyright, not just for the rather obvious benefits, but to try and safeguard the text, to guide certain projects and try to avoid unfortunate ones. We’re now looking to a new period and trying to view it with enthusiasm, knowing some exciting things may come.” Just as Shakespeare’s works have given us everything from 10 Things I Hate About You and Kiss Me Kate (from The Taming of the Shrew) to West Side Story (from Romeo and Juliet), who knows what The Great Gatsby might inspire? As with Shakespeare, the ability to freely reimagine the iconic works from 1925 may spur a range of creativity, from the serious to the whimsical, and in doing so allow the authors’ legacies to endure.

Access to our cultural heritage

The public domain also enables access to cultural materials that might otherwise be lost to history. 1925 was a long time ago. The vast majority of works from 1925 are out of circulation. When they enter the public domain in 2021, anyone can make them available online, where we can discover, enjoy, and breathe new life into them. (Empirical studies have shown that public domain books are less expensive, available in more editions and formats, and more likely to be in print—see herehere, and here.) The works listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more forgotten works are waiting to be rediscovered.

Unfortunately, the fact that works from 1925 are legally available does not mean they are actually available. After 95 years, many of these works are already lost or literally disintegrating (as with old films7 and recordings), evidence of what long copyright terms do to the conservation of cultural artifacts. For example, sequences that were shot in two-tone Technicolor from two of the films above, The Merry Widow and Pretty Ladies, are apparently lost. For the material that has survived, however, the long-awaited entry into the public domain is still something to celebrate.

The invisible public domain

Many of the works featured above are famous; that is why we included them. Their copyright holders benefitted from 20 more years of copyright because the works had enduring popularity, and were still earning royalties. But when Congress extended the copyright term for works like The Great Gatsby, it also did so for all of the works whose commercial viability had long ended. For the vast majority—probably 99%—of works from 1925, no copyright holder financially benefited from continued copyright. Yet they remained off limits, for no good reason. (A Congressional Research Service report indicated that only around 2% of copyrights between 55 and 75 years old retain commercial value. After 75 years, that percentage is even lower. Most older works are “orphan works,” where the copyright owner cannot be found at all.)

The story of Hitler’s copyright

There were also some truly odious works from 1925, most notably Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which was actually the subject of a fascinating copyright story. A young reporter named Alan Cranston, who later became a United States Senator, had read the German-language version of the book, and was surprised to see a bowdlerized translation of it circulating in the US. This English-language version had removed some of the most hateful and terrifying parts of the book, including Hitler’s plan for Nazi domination. So, in Cranston’s words, he prepared a “Reader’s Digest-like version (showing) the worst of Hitler” that included “every important point, every important idea Hitler presented,” but “eliminated his long-winded digressions, and cut out much of the endless repetition,” and added annotations showing Hitler’s “propaganda and distortions.” Cranston pledged no royalties to Hitler, and promised that any profits would go to help refugees from Hitler’s Reich. The unauthorized translation was 10 cents, and sold a half million copies in 10 days. It was 1939.

While Cranston had exposed Hitler’s evil, his unauthorized translation had also undercut the market for the authorized and sanitized version. He was sued for copyright infringement, and lost in court. “No damages were assessed, but we had to stop selling the book,” Cranston remembered. “But we did wake up a lot of Americans to the Nazi threat.”

More Works!

Technically, many works from 1925 may already be in the public domain because the copyright owners did not comply with the “formalities” that used to be necessary for copyright protection.8 Back then, your work went into the public domain if you did not include a copyright notice—e.g. “Copyright 1925 Virginia Woolf”—when publishing it, or if you did not renew the copyright after 28 years. Current copyright law no longer has these requirements. But, even though those works might technically be in the public domain, as a practical matter the public often has to assume they’re still copyrighted (or risk a lawsuit) because the relevant copyright information is difficult to find—older records can be fragmentary, confused, or lost. That’s why Public Domain Day is so significant. On January 1, 2021, the public will know that works published in 1925 are free for use without tedious or inconclusive research.

In an abundance of caution, our lists above primarily include works where we were able to track down the renewal data suggesting that they are still in-copyright through the end of 2020, and affirmatively entering the public domain in 2021. However, there were many exciting works from 1925 for which we could not locate renewals. They will also be in the public domain in 2021, but may have entered the public domain decades ago due to lack of renewal.

Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer performing at UCLA in 1960

Some authors choose to dedicate their works to the public domain before the end of the copyright term. In 2020, musician (and mathematician) Tom Lehrer, who became famous for his satirical songs in the 1950s and 1960s, put all of his lyrics and original compositions into the public domain. You can find them here. (Artists who wish to put their work in the public domain can do so using Creative Commons’ CC0 tool.)

Montage of works from 1964What Could Have Been

Works from 1925 are finally entering the public domain, after a 95-year copyright term. However, under the laws that were in effect until 1978, thousands of works from 1964 would be entering the public domain this year. They range from the films Goldfinger and Mary Poppins, to the children’s classics The Giving TreeHarriett the Spy, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to The Rolling Stones’ debut album and The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, and much more. Have a look at some of the others. In fact, since copyright used to come in renewable terms of 28 years, and 85% of authors did not renew, 85% of the works from 1992 might be entering the public domain! Imagine what the great libraries of the world—or just internet hobbyists—could do: digitizing those holdings, making them available for education and research, for pleasure and for creative reuse.

It's a Wonderful Public DomainIt’s a Wonderful Public Domain. . . .

What happens when works enter the public domain? Sometimes, wonderful things. The 1947 film It’s A Wonderful Life entered the public domain in 1975 because its copyright was not properly renewed after the first 28-year term. The film had been a flop on release, but thanks to its public domain status, it became a holiday classic. Why? Because TV networks were free to show it over and over again during the holidays, making the film immensely popular. But then copyright law reentered the picture. . . . In 1993, the film’s original copyright holder, capitalizing on a recent Supreme Court case, reasserted copyright based on its ownership of the film’s musical score and the short story on which the film was based (the film itself is still in the public domain). Ironically, a film that only became a success because of its public domain status was pulled back into copyright.

Want to learn more about the public domain? Here is the legal background on how we got our current copyright terms (including summaries of recent court cases), why the public domain matters, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions. You can also read James Boyle’s book The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press, 2008)—naturally, you can read the full text of The Public Domain online at no cost and you are free to copy and redistribute it for non-commercial purposes. You can also read “In Ambiguous Battle: The Promise (and Pathos) of Public Domain Day,” an article by Center Director Jennifer Jenkins revealing the promise and the limits of various attempts to reverse the erosion of the public domain, and a short article in the Huffington Post celebrating a previous Public Domain Day.


1 In 2019, published works entered the US public domain for the first time since 1998. However, in the interim, a small subset of works—unpublished works that were not registered with the Copyright Office before 1978—had been entering the public domain after a life plus 70 copyright term. In 2021, unpublished works from authors who died in 1950 will go into the public domain. But, because these works were never published, potential users are much less likely to encounter them. In addition, it is difficult to determine whether works were “published” for copyright purposes. Therefore, this site focuses on the thousands of published works that are finally entering the public domain. Please note that unpublished works that were properly registered with the Copyright Office in 1925 are also entering the public domain after a 20 year wait—for those works, copyright was secured on the date of registration.
The copyright term for older works is different in other countries. In the EU, works from authors who died in 1950—including George Orwell, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and George Bernard Shaw—will go into the public domain in 2021 after a life plus 70 year term. In Canada, works of authors who died in 1970—including E.M. Forster, Rube Goldberg, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin—will enter the public domain after a life plus 50 year term.

2 The 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act gave works published from 1923 through 1977 a 95-year term. They enter the public domain on January 1 after the conclusion of the 95th year, so as of 2021, works from 1925 and before are in the public domain. Works published through 1977 had to meet certain requirements to be eligible for the 95-year term—they all had to be published with a copyright notice, and works from before 1964 also had to have their copyrights renewed after the initial 28-year term. Foreign works from 1925 are still copyrighted in the US until 2021 if 1) they complied with US notice and renewal formalities, 2) they were published in the US within 30 days of publication abroad, or 3) if neither of these are true, they were still copyrighted in their home country as of 1/1/96.

3 Film buffs may notice that some well-known films from 1925—including The Lost World and Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush—are not on this list. This is because their copyrights were not renewed after the first 28-year term.

4 The list of public domain music refers to the “musical composition”—the underlying music and lyrics—not the sound recordings of those compositions. Federal copyright did not used to cover sound recordings from before 1972 (though pre-1972 sound recordings were protected under some states’ laws). However, a new law from 2018 called the Music Modernization Act (“MMA”) has federalized copyright for pre-1972 sound recordings, in order to clear up the confusing patchwork of state law protection. Recordings from 1925 will enter the public domain in 2026. Importantly however, unlike the rest of copyright law, the MMA allows for uses of orphan works: if those older recordings are not being commercially exploited, there is a process for lawfully engaging in noncommercial uses. For more information about this law, please see the Copyright Office’s summary. While musical compositions are still copyrighted, there is a “compulsory license” that allows people to make recordings if they pay a standard royalty and comply with the license terms. However, this compulsory license doesn’t cover printing sheet music, making public performances, synchronizing audio with video, or making “derivative works.” And, of course, it requires payment. Public domain compositions can be freely recorded.

5 To learn more about the unequal treatment of Black artists, you can read the excellent scholarship of Professor Kevin J. Greene, including Copyright, Culture & (and) Black Music: A Legacy of Unequal Protection and “Copynorms,” Black Cultural Production, and the Debate over African-American Reparations; Professor Olufunmilayo Arewa, including From J.C. Bach to Hip Hop: Musical Borrowing, Copyright and Cultural ContextBlues Lives: Promise and Perils of Musical Copyright and Writing Rights: Copyright’s Visual Bias and African American Music; and Professor Lateef Mtima, including Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship and Social Justice: From Swords to Ploughshares.

6 See Keeping Copyright in Balance, (February 21, 1998).

7 Many silent films were intentionally destroyed by the studios because they no longer had apparent value. Other older films have disintegrated while preservationists waited for them to enter the public domain, so that they could legally digitize them. (There is a narrow provision allowing some restorations, but it is extremely limited.) The Librarian of Congress estimates that more than 80% of films from the 1920s has already decayed beyond repair. Endangered film footage includes not only studio productions, but also works of historical value, such as newsreels, anthropological and regional films, rare footage documenting daily life for ethnic minorities, and advertising and corporate shorts. (For more information see here.)

8 Millions of books published from 1925–1963 are actually in the public domain because the copyright owners did not renew the rights. Efforts have been underway to unlock this “secret” public domain, but compiling a definitive list of those titles is a daunting task. The relevant registration and renewal information is in the 450,000-page Catalog of Copyright Entries (“CCE”). Currently there is no way to reliably search the entire CCE, but thankfully, the New York Public Library is in the midst of converting the CCE into a machine-searchable format. Even after this is complete, however, confirming that works without apparent renewals are in the public domain involves additional complexities. As of September 2019, the HathiTrust Copyright Review Program had completed this process with 506,989 US publications, and determined that 302,915 (59.7%) are in the public domain, and can therefore be made available online. The work of the New York Public Library, HathiTrust, and other groups continues, with the goal of opening these public domain books to the public.


Written by Jennifer Jenkins. Special thanks to our tireless and talented research maven and website guru Balfour Smith for building this site and compiling the list of works from 1925.

Creative Commons License Public Domain Day 2021 by Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The sad truth about the cost of library ebooks

Ebooks have been a lifeline during the various stages of lockdown, quarantine and social distancing. Even those who prefer print books have found that ebooks offer a safer and more convenient alternative – and, in cases where bookstores and libraries have been shut down or limited, ebooks may indeed be the only option available to them.

Many local libraries have had to temporarily close, limit hours and get creative with ways to continue to serve their patrons (hello, curbside service!).Because of these changes, a lot of people have discovered their library’s ebook collections for the first time. They have also discovered borrowing ebooks means limited selections of titles, limited numbers of copies, and long waits for new and popular titles. It can also be difficult to access the format you want, especially if you have a preference for either ebooks or audiobooks. And depending on what services your library offers, you may not be able to access the book you want on the device you prefer to read or listen on.

If you are new to digital lending models, one of the first things you will probably think is that none of it makes any sense. These are digital copies, right? Then why are they limited to one copy at at time? Why is the library telling me that they can’t afford to buy more of the books that everybody seems to want to read?

If you want to understand some of the economics behind library purchasing and lending, I highly recommend this piece by a collection development librarian called Hold On, eBooks Cost HOW Much? The Inconvenient Truth About Library eCollections.The piece does a great job of laying out the information and costs associated with library ebooks, including some great charts that clearly show the problem in context. Included is a list of things you can do to help support public library ebook lending.It’s something to keep in mind as you borrow your next read.

 

The Free Library of Philadelphia no longer offers paid-access cards

FLP_fee_card

It may be the first example of fallout from Macmillan’s ebook embargo and other traditional publishers tightening of licensing for ebooks and audiobooks. Today, The Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) sent an email to out-of-area fee card patrons letting them know that they will no longer be offing paid-access cards, effective November 1, 2019.

Here is the email I received:

Dear Customer:

In order to focus its efforts and resources on customers in its direct service area, the Free Library will no longer offer paid-access cards.

Your paid-access card will remain valid and usable for the duration of the term for which you paid. At the end of that term, you will no longer be able to access the Free Library’s resources, and you will be unable to renew your card for a further term.

Thank you for your understanding!

Several thing things stand out about this email. Note the words “In order to focus its efforts and resources on customers in its direct service area”. Also note the date, November 1st, which is the day Macmillan’s new ebook terms take effect for libraries. Interestingly, the change was NOT mentioned in the library’s community newsletter for November.

I have to admit, I expected that we would start seeing this happen. Macmillan’s embargo, along with publishers ending perpetual licencing for ebooks and audiobooks is artificially creating a scarcity for these materials. In order for libraries to ensure that residents in their local communities have access to materials, libraries are going to have to make hard decisions about the number of patrons their budgets allow them to serve. It makes sense that libraries will act to ensure access to the taxpayers who are directly funding services. (I just did not expect this to happen quite this soon!)

This is going to make it difficult for users such as myself who rely on paid access cards to supplement local libraries that have poor ebook selections and long waiting lists. A few numbers for comparison: My city library offers a total of 1,891 ebook and audiobook titles in its Overdrive collection. The Free Library of Philadelphia, on the other hand, offers 24,000 digital titles in its Overdrive collection. In 2018, The FLP loaned 449,547 eBooks (adult and children’s) and 69,208
digital audiobooks. (Note that the FLP annual report does not break out fee card access numbers separately.)

This change by the FLP will probably impact a large number of ebook library patrons. Back in 2007-2008 when the first generation Kindles became popular, the Free Library was one of the first libraries to offer ebooks to non-residents. KIndle users spread the word and the library became a very popular option for avid readers, especially among seniors and those who need the font scaling options that ebooks provide.

If you haven’t already, please visit the ALA’s #ebooksforall site to learn more about what publishers are doing to prevent libraries from offering ebook access for everyone and sign the ALA’s petition while you are there. There will be a lot more stories like this in the future unless we act to make sure that ebooks are freely available in libraries.

Spotify Word: Stream audiobooks, podcasts poetry and more for free

If you are looking for free audio content, Spotify’s Word genre offers a diverse of spoken word materials, podcasts, audiobooks, poetry , short stories and more.  Right now the collection is somewhat small, but is growing.

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

  • A collection of public domain audiobooks including works like The Great Gatsby and The Secret Garden.
  • An interesting selection of poetry, including readings by Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost and W.B. Yeats.
  • A diverse literature and short story selection, ranging from Dickens to Russian and French literature.
  • Radio dramasand spoken word performances in crime, sci-fi and vintage categories. (There’s even an selection of audio dramas from the sci-fi classic, Blake’s 7.)
  • A collection of speeches, including famous speeches by Martin Luther King, Joseph Campbell and Noam Choamsky.
  • Want to learn a foreign language? There are lessons in audio courses in Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese and even Irish.
  • There are also playlists for self-help, spirituality and guided meditation

All of this content is available on Spotify’s free tier. The only downside is that while Spotify allows ad-supported on-demand listening for free on desktops and tablets, the service is shuffle only for smartphone users on the free tier. If you want to take full advantage of the content on your phone, you will need to be a Premium subscriber.

As audiobooks and more spoken word content continue to rise in popularity, the addition of  the Word genre is a big plus for Spotify. What do you think?

Spend $20 on ebooks, get $5 credit on Amazon

For a limited time only, Amazon is offering a $5 ebook credit when you spend $20 on books.

To get the offer, here’s what you have to do:

  • Go to the offer page here and click the “Activate Now” button.
  • Spend $20 on eBooks by January 28, 2019

The offer applies to Kindle eBooks made available through Amazon.com and includes eBook gift purchases. It DOES NOT APPY to eBook pre-orders, physical goods, digital magazines, audiobooks (including Audible companions for your Kindle eBook purchase), print books, or digital subscriptions such as Kindle Unlimited.

After activating the offer and purchasing a minimum of $20 in books, you will receive the promotional credit.

The credit is good for 30 days  and is limited to one per customer and account.

How to see the books you’ve read on Kindle Unlimited (Updated)

One of the most popular posts on this blog is one that I wrote in 2016 on how to see the books you’ve read in Kindle Unlimited. Recently, Amazon has been making some changes to its Kindle Unlimited program that affect the way you find the books you’ve previously read in KU.

Before this change, you found the books you had previously read under the “Manage Your Content and Devices” link under Your Account tab.Now, that method only shows you the books you currently have borrowed from Kindle Unlimited. You can no longer see previously borrowed titles here.

Now, you can only see the lists of books you have previously borrowed on your “Your Memberships & Subscriptions” page.

UPDATE: The original method is working again. The method that follows is an alternative method for accessing the books you’ve read.

Getting to the page:

Please note: Amazon uses dynamic pages for their website and frequently tests new designs, so all customers do not always see the same site. It will also vary depending on whether you are browsing the web on a desktop, laptop, tablet, ir phone or whether you use the Amazon Shopping app. Therefore, I am posting several different ways ways to find the Kindle Unlimited history lists.

So far, I have found several ways to get to the page where you can see your borrowed books.:

From your account:

Method one:

Click on Your Account, the choose “Your Memberships & Subscriptions” link under your account tab. If you do not see any subscriptions, click on the arrow in the section that say “Don’t see your subscription? Take me to my…”. Choose “Kindle Unlimited.” This works on the Amazon Mobile shopping App and the web browser on mobile and on a desktop.

Method two:

On the right side of the menu bar, mouseover or click your name and account. Choose “Your Kindle Unlimited” under the tab. This works on a desktop

Other desktop methods:

Directly: If you are logged in to your Amazon account, you can get there directly via https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/ku/ku-central.

Kindle Unlimited main page:  From the drop down menu in the upper left corner, choose Kindle E-Readers and Books>Kindle Unlimited. This takes you to the main KU page.

If you are not logged in or do not currently subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you will see the page to sign up.

If you are currently a member, you will see a slider with promotions:

Under the slider, you will see four links: Browse the catalog, Manage your titles, Frequently Asked Questions, and Gift Kindle Unlimited. Click on Manage your titles under the slider. This takes you to “Manage your Kindle Unlimited Membership” page where you will see info about your membership, payment and cancellation options, as well a your borrowed books

On my Chrome browser window, there is also a gray bar at the bottom of the window with “Your Kindle Unlimited titles”  on one side and “Manage Your Titles on the other. Click on the bar to go to the “Manage your Kindle Unlimited Membership” page.

This page will take you directly to the borrowed items page.

The Borrowed items page:

Under your borrowed items, you will see the number of total titles you currently have borrowed. Underneath are your options for showing Kindle Unlimited titles.

  • Show all, current or returned books.
  • Sort by Title (A-Z and Z-A), Author (A-Z and Z-A), and Borrow Date (Oldest -Newest and Newest-Oldest).

The page then shows the covers of the titles you’ve borrowed, the date borrowed or returned, and the the status. On the desktop, the “Read Now” button opens up the Kindle Cloud Browser for me to read on. (On my account, the cloud browser is already listed on my account as one of my devices.)

On my mobile app, I only see a large orange button saying “Return.”

Note that, according to one of my readers, if you have cancelled Kindle Unlimited at any time and re-subscribed, you will NOT see the titles from your previous subscription period.

Need more help?

Amazon is currently making a number of changes to Kindle Unlimited. Current changes include issues with gifting Kindle Unlimited and buying pre-paid subscriptions. I have seen pages related to the subscription service come and go, then return over the past few weeks. I suspect that these changes will continue and plan to discuss some of those changes in a followup post.

The main help page for Kindle limited is here, however, the help page has not seemed to address the most recent KU problems. You may also be able to find additional information on the official Amazon forums.

Kindle Unlimited features unlimited access to over a million titles, and includes audiobooks. Kindle Unlimited books can be read on any Kindle device, including apps, ereaders and tablets. From Amazon.com, it is available only in the United States. It is available internationally in select countries through the local, country-specific Amazon site.

Happy (Non) Birthday from Kobo

Several times over this past year, I have received strange emails from Barnes and Noble that contained receipts for (very) old purchases, half a press release or notifications, and other assorted mistakes.

Well, Kobo evidently joined the glitch club and sent me an email wishing me a happy birthday and offering me 20% off a select group of titles.

Small problem: My birthday is still over six months away.

According to the email, this offer ends 01-15-2019. I wonder if I can get a rain check?

Anybody else get this or am I the only lucky one?

#oops

Public Domain Day 2019

For the last few years, I have written posts on January 1st talking about art, books, films and music that would have entered the public domain if those copyright terms had not been extended. Mainly due a corporation trying to protect the rights to a cartoon mouse, for an entire generation in the United States, no new material has fallen into the public domain. The fact that new material is FINALLY entering the public domain this year is a big deal and from here on out, every year, new works will fall into the public domain on a yearly basis.

The Public Domain belongs to the the people. The works contained within it are a part of our history and culture. When works fall into the public domain, many of these works suddenly reappear or are transformed into new art forms. So dig in; let’s see what’s in there, shall we? This is truly something to celebrate.

From Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain:

January 1, 2019 is (finally) Public Domain Day: Works from 1923 are open to all!

For the first time in over 20 years, on January 1, 2019, published works will enter the US public domain.1 Works from 1923 will be free for all to use and build upon, without permission or fee. They include dramatic films such as The Ten Commandments, and comedies featuring Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. There are literary works by Robert Frost, Aldous Huxley, and Edith Wharton, the “Charleston” song, and more. And remember, this has not happened for over 20 years. Why? Works from 1923 were set to go into the public domain in 1999, after a 75-year copyright term. But in 1998 Congress hit a two-decade pause button and extended their copyright term for 20 years, giving works published between 1923 and 1977 an expanded term of 95 years.2

But now the drought is over. How will people celebrate this trove of cultural material? Google Books will offer the full text of books from that year, instead of showing only snippet views or authorized previews. The Internet Archive will add books, movies, music, and more to its online library. Community theaters are planning screenings of the films. Students will be free to adapt and publicly perform the music. Because these works are in the public domain, anyone can make them available, where you can rediscover and enjoy them. (Empirical studies have shown that public domain books are less expensive, available in more editions and formats, and more likely to be in print—see herehere, and here.) In addition, the expiration of copyright means that you’re free to use these materials, for education, for research, or for creative endeavors—whether it’s translating the books, making your own versions of the films, or building new music based on old classics.

Here are some of the works that will be entering the public domain in 2019. A fuller (but still partial) listing of over a thousand works that we have researched can be found here.

Films

  • Safety Last!, directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, featuring Harold Lloyd
  • The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. DeMille
  • The Pilgrim, directed by Charlie Chaplin
  • Our Hospitality, directed by Buster Keaton and John G. Blystone
  • The Covered Wagon, directed by James Cruze
  • Scaramouche, directed by Rex Ingram

Books

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the Golden Lion
  • Agatha Christie, The Murder on the Links
  • Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis
  • e.e. cummings, Tulips and Chimneys
  • Robert Frost, New Hampshire
  • Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
  • Aldous Huxley, Antic Hay
  • D.H. Lawrence, Kangaroo
  • Bertrand and Dora Russell, The Prospects of Industrial Civilization
  • Carl Sandberg, Rootabaga Pigeons
  • Edith Wharton, A Son at the Front
  • P.G. Wodehouse, works including The Inimitable Jeeves and Leave it to Psmith
  • Viginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

Music

  • Yes! We Have No Bananas, w.&m. Frank Silver & Irving Cohn
  • Charleston, w.&m. Cecil Mack & James P. Johnson
  • London Calling! (musical), by Noel Coward
  • Who’s Sorry Now, w. Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby, m. Ted Snyder
  • Songs by “Jelly Roll” Morton including Grandpa’s SpellsThe Pearls, and Wolverine Blues (w. Benjamin F. Spikes & John C. Spikes; m. Ferd “Jelly Roll” Morton)
  • Works by Bela Bartok including the Violin Sonata No. 1 and the Violin Sonata No. 2
  • Tin Roof Blues, m. Leon Roppolo, Paul Mares, George Brunies, Mel Stitzel, & Benny Pollack
(There were also compositions from 1923 by other well-known artists including Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, WC Handy, Oscar Hammerstein, Gustav Holst, Al Jolson, Jerome Kern, and John Phillip Sousa; though their most famous works were from other years.)

Of course, 1923 was a long time ago. (Under the 56-year copyright term that existed until 1978, we could be seeing works from 1962 enter the public domain in 2019.) Unfortunately, the fact that works from 1923 are legally available does not mean they are actually available. Many of these works are lost entirely or literally disintegrating (as with old films and recordings), evidence of what long copyright terms do to the conservation of cultural artifacts. For the works that have survived, however, their long-awaited entry into the public domain is still something to celebrate.

Technically, many works from 1923 may already have entered the public domain decades ago because the copyright owners did not comply with the “formalities” that used to be necessary for copyright protection. Back then, your work went into the public domain if you did not include a copyright notice—e.g. “Copyright 1923 Charlie Chaplin”—when publishing it, or if you did not renew the copyright after 28 years. Current copyright law no longer has these requirements. But, even though those works might technically be in the public domain, as a practical matter the public often has to assume they’re still copyrighted (or risk a lawsuit) because the relevant copyright information is difficult or impossible to find—older records can be fragmentary, confused, or lost. That’s why January 1, 2019 is so significant. On that date, the public will know that works published in 1923 are free for public use without tedious or inconclusive research.

For example, in 2019, we will know that Robert Frost’s famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is in the public domain because copyright over the collection containing the poem, New Hampshire, will lapse. (It’s possible that the poem might have entered the public domain earlier because it was first published in a magazine and that earlier copyright was not renewed on time—see discussion thread here—but we can be confident that its copyright has expired in 2019.) Frost’s estate has used copyright law to strictly control uses of his works. Eric Whitacre, who composed the incredible Virtual Choir works, discovered this the hard way when he wrote a piece in memory of a couple who had died within weeks of each other after being married over fifty years. The piece was commissioned by the couple’s daughter, whose favorite poem was “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Whitacre wrote a choral work based on the poem, and it was so well-received that other conductors began asking him for the work. He writes:

After a LONG legal battle (many letters, many representatives), the estate of Robert Frost and their publisher, Henry Holt Inc., sternly and formally forbid me from using the poem for publication or performance… I was crushed. The piece was dead, and would sit under my bed for the next 37 years because of some ridiculous ruling by heirs and lawyers.

(Eventually he asked the poet Charles Anthony Silvestri to write new words for the music that had been set to Frost’s poem, you can see the Virtual Choir performance of that composition here and read his full story here; note that Frost’s lawyers were mistaken about when the copyright ends, as indicated above, it lapses in 2019, if it hasn’t already.) Beginning in 2019, the next Whitacre won’t face this frustration, and anyone may use this powerful poem in their own creations.

Note that copyright law has a way of introducing complexities into any analysis. There are some familiar works that appear to be from 1923, but are not in fact entering the public domain in 2019 because of publication details. One is Felix Salten’s Bambi, A Life in the Woods, the basis for Disney’s famous movie. Salten first published it in Germany without a copyright notice in 1923, then republished it with a compliant copyright notice in 1926. When Disney (of all companies) claimed that Bambi was in the public domain, a court disagreed, holding that because the initial 1923 publication was in Germany, the failure to include a copyright notice did not put the book into the US public domain. The 1926 publication was valid, so the book’s copyright expires after 95 years in 2022.3 (The court’s full opinion is here.) Also, while the copyrights in several Jelly Roll Morton songs lapse in 2019, his famous “King Porter Stomp” was not copyrighted until 1924 (even though it was recorded in 1923), so it is not entering the public domain until 2020.

In an abundance of caution, our list above only includes works where we were actually able to track down the notice and renewal data suggesting that they are indeed still in-copyright until 2019. We’ve also compiled—to the best of our research capabilities—a fuller spreadsheet showing other renewed works from 1923. You can find it here. But we want to emphasize that this is only a partial collection; many more works are entering the public domain as well, but we could not find the legal minutia to confirm their copyright status.

It’s a Wonderful Public Domain. . . . What happens when works enter the public domain? Sometimes, wonderful things. The 1947 film It’s A Wonderful Life entered the public domain in 1975 because its copyright was not properly renewed after the first 28-year term. The film had been a flop on release, but thanks to its public domain status, it became a holiday classic. Why? Because TV networks were free to show it over and over again during the holidays, making the film immensely popular. But then copyright law reentered the picture. . . . In 1993, the film’s original copyright holder, capitalizing on a recent Supreme Court case, reasserted copyright based on its ownership of the film’s musical score and the short story on which the film was based (the film itself is still in the public domain). Ironically, a film that only became a success because of its public domain status was pulled back into copyright.

What Could Have Been

Works from 1923 are finally entering the public domain, after a 95-year copyright term. However, under the laws that were in effect until 1978, thousands of works from 1962 would be entering the public domain this year. They range from the books A Wrinkle in Time and The Guns of August, to the film Lawrence of Arabia and the song Blowin’ in the Wind, and much more. Have a look at some of the others. In fact, since copyright used to come in renewable terms of 28 years, and 85% of authors did not renew, 85% of the works from 1990 might be entering the public domain! Imagine what the great libraries of the world—or just internet hobbyists—could do: digitizing those holdings, making them available for education and research, for pleasure and for creative reuse.

Want to learn more about the public domain? Here is the legal background on how we got our current copyright terms (including summaries of recent court cases), why the public domain matters, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions. You can also read James Boyle’s book The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press, 2008)—naturally, you can read the full text of The Public Domain online at no cost and you are free to copy and redistribute it for non-commercial purposes. You can also read “In Ambiguous Battle: The Promise (and Pathos) of Public Domain Day,” an article by Center Director Jennifer Jenkins revealing the promise and the limits of various attempts to reverse the erosion of the public domain, and a short article in the Huffington Post celebrating a previous Public Domain Day.


1 No published works have entered our public domain since 1998. However, a small subset of works—unpublished works that were not registered with the Copyright Office before 1978—have been entering the public domain after a life plus 70 copyright term. But, because these works were never published, potential users are much less likely to encounter them. In addition, it is difficult to determine whether works were “published” for copyright purposes. Therefore, this site focuses on the thousands of published works that are finally entering the public domain.

2 Works published between 1923 and 1977 had to meet certain requirements to be eligible for the 95-year term—they all had to be published with a copyright notice, and works from 1923–1963 also had to have their copyrights renewed after the initial 28-year term.

3 Foreign works from 1923 are still copyrighted in the US until 2019 if 1) they complied with US notice and renewal formalities, 2) they were published in the US within 30 days of publication abroad, or 3) if neither of these are true, they were still copyrighted in their home country as of 1/1/96. Note that the copyright term for older works is different in other countries: in the EU, works from authors who died in 1948 will go into the public domain in 2019 after a life plus 70 year term, and in Canada, works of authors who died in 1968 will enter the public domain after a life plus 50 year term.


Special thanks to our tireless and talented research maven and website guru Balfour Smith for building this site and compiling the list of works from 1923.

Ebook Evangelist’s note: This article reprinted from Public Domain Day 2019 by Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. This article licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Happy holidays (and a little Christmas music)

Wishing everyone a happy and joyous holiday season!

I will be posting here and there over the next week and back to a more regular daily posting schedule after the first of the year.

As some of my regular readers know, my husband is a musician who, a few years back, recorded a wonderful holiday jazz CD, Tidings of Comfort and Joy: A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas. Once a year, I try to do one post promoting his music.

For your holiday enjoyment, here is  video for the one of my favorite songs from from his album:

You can listen to more on this playlist from YouTube. You can also listen for free on Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music and other streaming services. And, if you like what you heard, comments and reviews on your favorite retailer are always appreciated!

If you enjoy the album and want a copy of your own, it’s available in both CD and digital formats at at Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.

Enjoy!