While you revel in the New Year’s Day public holiday, take a moment to think about all the new things that entered the public domain today. It will still be another six years before most published works start entering the public domain again thanks to the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) (for more on this see one of our older blog posts), but the changes to the copyright term that came in with the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act 2017 means that for only the second time in nearly 15 years a range of new things entered the public domain today.
The new materials in the public domain this year will be unpublished works with authors who died in 1949, or orphan works (i.e. works with no known author) created in 1949. Here’s a sample:
- Artist sketches and studies by recognised surrealist Australian artist Peter Purves Smith, such as the two featured. One is an artist study for The pleading butcher (1948) and the other is a study for The pond (1940). While he only produced a small number of paintings before he died, Smith’s sketches, studies and painting are held in notable collections including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA), the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) and state collections in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. His works are also held by the Heide Museum of Modern Art and the National Portrait Gallery.
- The letters of Australian politician, feminist and suffragist Vida Goldstein who ran as an independent candidate for the Senate in 1903, making her one of the first four women in the British Empire to be nominated and to stand for election to a national parliament. While she was not elected, she worked tirelessly advocating for “the moral and legal status of women” through her papers and organisations such as the Women’s Political Association (W.P.A.) advocating. This is just one page or one letter, but a powerful message.
- The Lotus Flower poem by Roderic Quinn, a leading Australian poet in his day. While much of his works were published (and so a different copyright duration rule applies), The Lotus Flower is a beautiful handmade (and thereby unpublished) booklet. It has hard cloth covers and simply but elegant pages featuring prose by Quinn surrounded by watercolours and and illustrations by watercolourist J J Hilder. Both the vivid verse and the stunning illustrations are the public domain – Quinn died in 1949 and Hilder in 1916.
Of course, there’s a lot of other unpublished material not yet digitised that also fell into the public domain: such as artist sketches, watercolours and photos by Theodora Ester Cowan, the “first Australia-born female sculptor” and the letters and papers of author and journalist Ada Augusta Holman, wife of former Premier of New South Wales William Arthur Holman. Hopefully they will be digitised and available online soon.
Not sure how this public domain thing works? Take a look at the excellent fact sheets on the website of our sister organisation, the Australian Library Copyright Committee (ALCC). They include a rundown of the 2017 changes, a summary of how the law works now, and even flowcharts to help you work out whether something is in the public domain.