Copyright is a limited-term set of rights given to creators, to let them control (or not) how they share their creations with others. US federal law limits the length of time copyright exists, to give others a chance to reuse and build upon that original work.
Laws change. Originally, copyright was granted for 75 years. Back in 1998, the laws were changed again, to grant 95 years of copyright protection to works. That means works copyrighted between 1923 and 1977 had to wait an extra 20 years. Since 1923 + 95 = 2018, once 2018 ended, items copyrighted in 1923 become available.
Here are a few of the items with a Hopkins connection that will enter the Public Domain on January 1, 2019.
- One is Woodrow Wilson’s Case for the League of Nations. Wilson was a Hopkins graduate student in the 1880s and of course went on to become President of the United States. We have two copies of this work. One is in the SAIS Library and one in MSE Library.
- Sir William Osler, one of the Four Founding Physicians of our School of Medicine, published Incunabula Medica: A Study of the Earliest Printed Medical Books in 1923.
- Gertrude Stein attended medical school here, but didn’t graduate. Our Special Collections unit has several items she published in 1923.
- The Johns Hopkins University Press has been publishing books since 1881. The Hopkins Libraries have many of the Press’ 1923 books for you to peruse.
The folks over at the Duke Law Center for the Study of the Public Domain have a lot more detail and some lists of cool things that are now freely and openly available! Some titles include
- The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
- New Hampshire by Robert Frost
- A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
- The Covered Wagon directed by James Cruze
If you’re more interested in digital objects that weren’t formally published, like digitized manuscripts, diaries, letters, and other cultural heritage items, check out Rights Statements to learn how copyright applies – or not – to those items.