On January 1, 2019, a new set of published works entered the public domain in the US for the first time in two decades, when the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended copyright protections and limited the public domain to works published before 1923. In honor of the occasion, and to show our appreciation for the public domain, the Libraries staff digitized 100 works from MIT Libraries collections and made them available on the Internet Archive. These works are now freely available to read and use without any copyright restrictions.
To showcase the collection, Libraries staff wrote short reflections about items of interest that were posted on the Libraries’ news website. Public Domain Day festivities also included a well-attended IAP class, where participants learned how to determine when something enters the public domain, and a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, where volunteers uploaded hundreds of public domain images, ranging from vintage photos of the Bronx to H.G. Wells’ view of the ancient world.
The Libraries’ efforts involved more than a dozen staff across many departments, making possible an incredible celebration of the public domain that will continue into the rest of the year— and into every year that follows. We’re already looking forward to the next batch of books we can release into the public domain in January 2020.
Explore the Public Domain Day Collection at libraries.mit.edu/public-domain.