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Friday, January 12, 2024

Gunterman - Ballads and Boots - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Public Domain has released 1928's works, including Wanda Gág, Millions of Cats (the oldest American picture book still in print).  While much attention has been paid to Disney's mouse starting to become available, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain has an excellent article not only showing highlights of the newest released literature, films and music, but also the implications of delaying Public Domain.  

It is worth pointing out this from the article (I further highlight part of it):

The Tip of the (Melting) Iceberg

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 Steamboat Willie, it also did so for all of the works whose commercial viability had long subsided. For the vast majority—probably 99%—of works from 1928, 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.

Now that these works are in the public domain, anyone can make them available to the public. This enables access to our cultural heritage—access to materials that might otherwise be forgotten. 1928 was a long time ago. The majority of works from that year are out of circulation. When they enter the public domain in 2024, anyone can republish or post them online. (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 here, here, and here.) The works listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more works are waiting to be rediscovered.

from Center for the Study of the Public Domain's Public Domain Day blog

I know this is an old rant of mine -- why this blog mainly offers Keeping the Public in Public Domain stories.  I take sunny yellow post-it notes and flag my Public Domain books.  I'm happy there's a lot of that sunshine on my shelves.  I have two stacks of books from my personal library that now are available. Unfortunately many of them are not available online yet so I can bring good copies here without damaging their older bindings.  As the Pubic Domain article mentions, "Online repositories such as the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, Google Books, and the New York Public Library can make works fully available online. This helps enable access to cultural materials that might otherwise be lost to history. 1928 was a long time ago and the vast majority of works from 1928 are not commercially available. You couldn’t buy them, or even find them, if you wanted."  Fortunately I was able to find Bertha L. Gunterman's Castles in Spain at the Internet Archive.  That Gunterman article mentions her work as a publisher, but she only produced three books as her own.  How it was done is worth knowing: 

Gunterson (sic) had long been interested in Spanish fantasy, and though she spoke no Spanish, she would take a friend with her to the New York Public Library to translate stories as she worked her way through some Spanish originals. The book contains some sixteen folktales.

I chose a story of music and keeping a culture alive as particularly related to the Public Domain.

There's nothing wrong with keeping music or stories alive, but they do deserve respect.  

At the same time those repositories of such culture are most vital, a court case, Hachette v. Internet Archive, threatens online works and ebook lending by libraries.  An appeal supported by the American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries, Authors Alliance, Copyright Scholars, and many more can be found in "Friend of the court briefs filed in internet archives appeal."  How appropriate that today's story, now in Public Domain, was so far only available there.


This is part of a series of postings 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.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates 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 regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-

  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.

  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"

The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:        

         - David K. Brown -

         - Richard Martin -

         - Spirit of Trees -

         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for December 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.

       - World of Tales - 

           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.

You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!

    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.

You can see why I recommend these to you. 

Have fun discovering even more stories

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