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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Keeping the Public in Public Domain. . . or not?

Back at the beginning of summer I began a pair of experiments.  One of them was the publishing on Wednesdays and Saturdays a series of stories from books I own that are in the Public Domain.  I chose stories pre-1923 both because they are safe to reprint and I feel strongly about the cultural purpose behind the idea of the Public Domain.  Sometimes I get on my virtual soapbox and complain about how Sonny Bono is in the Great Beyond singing "I Got You, Babe."  I say that because when he left performing and became a congressman, he represented the interests of the Disney corporation, which was about to see Mickey Mouse leave the safety of copyright.  As Wikipedia put it in their article on him: He was one of twelve co-sponsors of a House bill extending copyright.  Although that bill was never voted on in the Senate, a similar Senate bill was passed after his death and named the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in his memory.

While the claim was made that this just put U.S. copyright law in line with the rest of international copyright law, the litigious nature of U.S. copyright law enforcement easily outstrips international tendencies.  Public Domain became a nightmare of locating renewals and death dates of authors for any works published from 1923 on.  To put it in the words on Sonny Bono's tombstone:  And the Beat Goes On.

For that reason, when starting the Keeping the Public in Public Domain series, I said:
This is part of a series of bi-weekly posting of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

Currently I'm involved in projects taking me out of my usual work of sharing stories with an audience.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  This fall I expect to return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Depending on response, I will decide at that time if "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings. 

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Labor Day marks the time recognized by most in the U.S. as "fall."  This has nothing to do with the recognition of the first day of the autumnal equinox when the sun crosses the celestial equator going southward, rising exactly due east and sets exactly due west.  That will be September 22 at 4:44 p.m.  It won't even be the day a few days later when the day is equally divided with 12 hours of daylight and 12 of night.  All that may satisfy devoted followers of almanacs, nor even the changing of leaf colors, but psychologically the start of school and ending of summer vacations is when fall schedules begin.  I know some areas have school start in August, but tradition and a desire for the last gasp of vacation dollars tends strongly towards using Labor Day as the marker.  It is so strong that Michigan's legislators decreed schools should start after Labor Day.  Not even the changing of leaf colors can be predicted.  I'm convinced Michigan is going to become the Garden Spot of the U.S.  This summer's heat only barely touched our "Water-Winter Wonderland" and we have had many leaves change color quite some time ago.  Fortunately this premature change hasn't included leaves falling.

ENOUGH! you are probably saying.  Schedules change as the start of school seems to make my calendar resemble a carousel going faster and faster with commitments that no longer have anything to do with summer.  

So it's time for me to decide if I should continue the posting of stories.  I've had emails off the blog and comments from friends on Facebook making it clear people have enjoyed the stories.  At the same time I know it sometimes took me away on yet more research.  It's just the way I tend to work.  I still want this blog to include monthly research topics, whether related to the stories or the other topics related to my storytelling.  

I've decided to drop the Wednesday publishing of stories in the Keeping the Public in Public Domain series.  For now I will post on Saturdays in the series unless that week I have other research articles.  I hope this will satisfy all who have found these stories worthwhile.  I include myself in that audience.  At the same time I hope this schedule is realistic.  We'll see.  
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This is my slightly revised series statement of purpose:
This is part of a series of weekly posting of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, I'm returning to involvement in projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it. 

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