I read a lot… One of things that I’ve found interesting as I’ve gotten older is, the best books are often the oldest books that feature graphic design information facts. Where the information written is sold through powerful statements coupled with eye catching typography and graphics. Books that were written in the early 1900’s and the late 1800’s tend to contain the purest of what I call “jewels”. These books were written back when people genuinely wanted to share valuable knowledge within their books for the overall advancement of man. Before the common era of today where many books and writings are full of fluff and generally benefit authors who are looking to share little pieces of information across a string of books in order to capture an eager audience and of course, make more money.
Another thing that I’ve found interesting in my readings over the years is, many authors actually make use of copyright free material written prior to 1932 and have passed it along to their readers as their own information. Is there something wrong with that approach? Should authors credit the material they are using to an older author who has passed away?
I say yes and no here’s why…
Writers should credit the original author for their work but many don’t. According to current U.S. Patent laws it is not necessary to credit authors whose works are older than 75 years old and have not been re-copyrighted by the authors estate. At the 75 year mark, copyrights lose their “rights” and the information becomes part of the “public domain”. Books that were written and copyrighted prior to 1923 were often plagiarized from much older works often found in museums as artifacts from around the world, so the argument of who should get credit is up to the public. The old saying, “There is nothing new under the sun” probably bodes well here.
Definition of Public Domain
n. 1) in copyright law, the right of anyone to use literature, music or other previously copyrighted materials, after the copyright period has expired. Although the copyright laws have changed several times, a rule of thumb would be that the last possible date for copyright protection would be 50 years after the death of the author. Thus, the works of William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jack London, and other classic writers are in the public domain and may be published by anyone without payment of a royalty.
So in layman’s terms Public Domain means cultural works that are free of copyright, and belong to everyone equally. *
3 Interesting Facts About Copyrights You Should Know
- Project Gutenberg is a Project Gutenberg (PG) is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks”. It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library. Currently it offers over 49,000 FREE eBooks to read/use and they are all part of the Public Domain in the U.S. aka copyright-free.
- Simply changing portions of the text, adding footnotes, references, opinions etc to Public Domain books can allow you to recreate new works which then be copyrighted to you as the new author.
- Depending on the location of the server a published or soon-to-be published work is sitting on, the copyright and trademark laws change based on the country holding the actual physical server.
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Examples of early 1900 ad copy and graphic design which today would be copyright free:
* Be sure to check the copyright and trademark laws of the country you are publishing and/or living in first.