Tag Archives: Public Domain Day

Initiative by SCCS to promote the content coming into the public domain

King’s Blue Book: A sampling of Hawai’ian musical traditions

Kings book of Hawaiian melodies

King’s book of Hawaiian melodies. [Illustrated souvenir collection] by King, Charles E., 1874-1950. Cover page. Public domain via MIT Libraries.

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

MIT Libraries’ collections reflect the depth, breadth, and variety of MIT community members’ interests and passions. King’s Book of Hawaiian Melodies is an example of an unexpected treasure lurking in our stacks. Amy Ku‘uleialoha Stillman, a faculty member at the University of Michigan and a respected scholar in the field, lovingly describes this volume as one of the “bibles” of Hawai’ian music, frequently found in piano benches across the islands. Her blog post chronicles its publication history, with multiple editions issued between 1916 and 1948. (MIT’s copy is the 5th edition, published in 1923.)

But you don’t have to be a scholar or a specialist to appreciate this fun collection of traditional Hawai’ian songs, with lyrics in both English and Hawai’ian and accompaniment arranged for either piano or ukulele. In his foreword, Charles Edward King described this as a compilation of “songs that breathe the atmosphere of the land.” Perfect escapist musical fare for January in Cambridge!

1923’s “Recent Opinions on Modern Vivisection”

Modern vivisection title page

Title page of Some recent opinions on modern vivisection, by Society of Friends of Medical Progress, published 1923. Public domain via MIT Libraries.

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

When I first saw Some recent opinions on modern vivisection by competent living authorities in the list of books we were digitizing, it immediately attracted my morbid curiosity. What are these opinions?  Who, exactly, was vivisecting whom in 1923?  And… surely these opinions are negative…?

The pamphlet’s first sentence did not answer my questions, but it is pretty bold: “Vivisection is a vital question involving the health of the civilized world, and everyone should know the truth about it.”

Um, if you say so, pamphlet. Tell me more.

It takes another page and a half of Lovecraftian, slow-reveal horror to actually state the “modern opinion.” That first statement? “On investigation it has been found that almost all the really great men and women who have expressed themselves as opposed to vivisection are dead.”

Did… did you kill them?  Did you… vivisect them?

Joking aside, the predominant argument seems to be that, with recent (to 1923) developments in anesthesia, the benefits to medical knowledge obtained from surgery on live animals (yes, for some partial relief, they seem to be only talking about non-human animals) outweigh the moral and ethical harms, and the rest of the pamphlet cites medical and moral leaders who agree.

One Wikipedia rabbit-hole later, I’ve learned that pro- and anti- vivisection movements alternated sway throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and that anesthesia was indeed developing. Another pamphlet in the digitized collection explains the origins of the society which authored Some Recent Opinions, which was founded in part to combat the antivivisection and antivaccination movements of the time (anti-vaxx movements are apparently not a new thing! I would not have paired them with anti-vivisection, however).

So, propaganda and counter-propaganda? Do the benefits to medical knowledge really outweigh the costs? The Society of Friends of Medical Progress (authors of this pamphlet) certainly think so, while the American Anti-Vivisection Society (founded around the same time, and still active today) certainly do not. “Competent Living Authorities” may disagree.

 

When did it enter the public domain?

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

We digitized 100 books published in 1923 because 1923 is the year by which you can be confident that the work is public domain in the US, because the longest possible restrictions will have fallen away. Many works, however, may have entered the public domain years or decades earlier. In this post, I delve into the rights history of one work in our collection to see when it really entered the public domain.

The Atom and the Bohr Theory of its Structure was published in 1923 by the New York publishing house of Alfred A. Knopf. At that time, US copyright was governed by the Copyright Act of 1909, which required creators to meet several requirements in order to grant copyright protection (note: this isn’t true for things created today). The first of these is the copyright notice – which is simply the word “Copyright” (or “Copr.” or “©”) accompanied by the name of the copyright owner and the publication year. As simple as this requirement is, the implications were heavy, since a deficient copyright notice could invalidate the copyright. This is the only place where the publication date appears in The Atom and the Bohr Theory:

Bohr theory_copyright notice

Publication information, The Atom and the Bohr Theory of its Structure, public domain via MIT Libraries.

Because the word “copyright” (or “Copr.” or “©”) doesn’t appear, this book didn’t meet the requirements for US copyright protection, and would have been in the public domain since 1923 when it was published.

Additionally, to maintain the copyright in the book, the copyright would have had to have been renewed with the US Copyright Office in the year prior to the 28th anniversary of its publication, in this case 1951. Searching renewal records is tricky, however, and my search of the renewal records for “Kramers,” “Holst,” “Lindsay,” and “Bohr” (in 1950, 1951, and 1952, just for good measure) didn’t turn up a match for this work. If the work had a valid copyright notice and hadn’t been renewed, it would’ve entered the public domain in 1951.

However, there is a complication. There are clues in the frontmatter that there are prior versions of this book published outside of the US.

Bohr theory_non-US publication

Prior publication information, The Atom and the Bohr Theory of its Structure, public domain via MIT Libraries.

And, indeed, a search of the copyright registration records for 1923 turns up a record of the foreign registration for the original Danish work. The English translation would be a derivative work of the Danish original, and while the translation might be public domain in the US, use of that translation could still potentially infringe the Danish original.

Bohr theory_foreign registration

Foreign copyright registration for Bohrs Atomteori Almenfattelig Fremstillet, in the 1923 Catalog of Copyright Entries. Foreign publication presented a challenge under the 1909 Act, as many found it inequitable to refuse copyright protection to a work properly protected in its home country, and various accommodations have been made over the years for foreign-published works. The most important of these for current purposes was the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA). The URAA eliminated the requirement that foreign-published works comply with US notice and renewal requirements, and restored the copyright in foreign works that had previously been public domain in the US (if they were protected by copyright in their home countries as of the 1996 enactment date of URAA).

If, therefore, we assume that Bohrs Atomteori was protected by Danish copyright in 1996, it could have been public domain in the US  until 1996 before having its copyright restored. The URAA restored the copyright term to the length it would have if all US requirements had been met, which for Bohrs Atomteori would result in a copyright term of 95 years after its 1922 publication, or until 2017. The Atom and the Bohr Theory, therefore, may have been free of copyright restrictions in the US from 1923-1996, and then again as of Public Domain Day 2018, after a complicated copyright story.

Intrigued or confused? Join us at Is it in the Public Domain? during IAP to learn more!

This post is written by Katie Zimmerman, Scholarly Communications and Licensing Librarian. All errors and oversimplifications are mine and this post should not be construed as legal advice. I am indebted to many, many sources, most of them Peter Hirtle, for insight into copyright duration.

Be prepared for the building inspector (in 1923)

1923Rulesbook

Cover of Rules and Regulations for the Construction of Electrical Work in the City of Baltimore, published 1923. Public domain via MIT Libraries.

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

If you did electrical construction work for the City of Baltimore in 1923, you could pick up a handy small reference book that would fit comfortably in your toolkit or tool-belt, because this petite volume with the cover title, “Rules and Regulations for the Construction of Electrical Work in the City of Baltimore, issued by the Inspector of Buildings,” is only 168 pages and just 6 inches by 4 inches. Issued as a paperback, this soft cover electrical code reader, complete with a 14 page “Index to Rules,” has everything you need to stay up to date with Baltimore city ordinances, especially building inspector requests and requirements.

The electrical engineer who uses this book is empowered to know and cite the rule or regulation regarding the installation of any type of motor, low or high power systems, wiring and switches for indoor and outdoor use, and of course, arc lamps popular in the home and in movie and theater houses all before the inspector of buildings comes to check out the finished project.

A public domain for Cinderella

A Kiss for Cinderella

An excerpt from page 112 of A Kiss for Cinderella, public domain via MIT Libraries.

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

J.M. Barrie is best known as the creator of Peter Pan, however he also wrote about more traditional characters. His play A Kiss for Cinderella opened on Broadway for Christmas 1916, and our copy of the script was published in 1923 with a copyright date of 1920. The play was adapted into a silent film in 1925.

Barrie’s play is a (then) modern-day take on the classic Cinderella tale and character, which trace their roots far back into cultural history (the earliest known Cinderella tale dates from ~7 BCE).  This deep history puts Cinderella into the public domain, which has allowed many authors to build on the story and a allowed the character to become as well known as she is today.

Barrie’s copyright in the play would protect unique aspects he added, but not the well known character or plot.

 

 

Celebrate Public Domain Day with the MIT Libraries

MIT Bulletin 1923

Cover of Military Science and Tactics by MIT, published 1923. Public domain via MIT Libraries.

January 1, 2019, is the first time in 20 years that works published in the U.S. have entered the public domain. Works in the public domain are free for anyone to read and use, and are a vital resource for creators to build from. Did you know that public domain images on Wikipedia, if they were not in the public domain, would cost $246 to $270 million dollars per year? Or that It’s a Wonderful Life became a holiday classic only after entering the public domain accidentally?

Despite the broad value of the public domain, however, copyright durations are extremely long, and have only been getting longer (copyright in works created today last throughout the creator’s life and for 70 years afterward). The most recent extension, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, took effect in 1998 and extended copyright durations for 20 years, freezing the public domain in the process. This year the copyright clock keeps ticking, and works from 1923 are entering the public domain for the first time.

MIT Libraries are celebrating the public domain by digitizing 100 newly public domain books from our collections. Come see the collection and follow our exploration of it on our Public Domain Day website. Wonder what the College Entrance Examination Board algebra requirements, Modern Radio Practice, or possibly Recent Opinions on Modern Vivisection were in 1923? Now you can find out! Throughout the month of January, we will be posting explorations of these books and the public domain itself. Celebrate the public domain with us!

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website. This post is by Katie Zimmerman, Scholarly Communications and Licensing Librarian.

A Journey to India, 1921-1922

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

Angus Jute Mill

Albert Farwell Bemis, A Journey to India, 1923, p. 29. Public domain via the MIT Libraries

A Journey to India, 1921-1922 by Albert Farwell Bemis is an account of a world trip taken by a father and his son about three years after the end of WWI from New York via France, Egypt, India, China, Philippines, and Hawaii back to Boston. Farwell Bemis, a contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi who studied civil engineering at MIT, became a businessman and owned a jute mill an hour north of Kolkata (Calcutta), in Bhadreswar, in West Bengal, India. He is also known as an authority on housing, one who established a trust to fund research on the topic.

The book has insightful observations about travel, co-travelers, economic/industrial development, deep history, and culture. He seems to have thought that industrialization and modernization were inevitable realities despite the efforts of leaders like Gandhi, whom he clearly understood little, to reverse their adverse consequences: “I took a hurried trip to Bombay to see something of the cotton industry, at present the most prosperous of all Indian industries owing to the Gandhi-ites’ Swadeshi [referring to Hind Swaraj, Indian Home Rule] propaganda.” (p. 36)

He is overall a thoughtful traveler who advises his fellow Americans to “let us devote ourselves to our own industrial problems, our own racial problems, involving negroes, American Indians, and immigrants of countless races, and our own political problems, before attempting to tell other nationalities how to run their affairs.” (p. 55)

A language lesson

From the Library of Kenneth Hale

Italian Folk Tales and Folk Songs / Frederick A.G. Cowper / inside cover. Public domain via the MIT Libraries

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

I struggle when it comes to learning languages. I took Latin and French in high school, and minored in German in college. In graduate school, I passed a language test in German to earn my MA in art history, but that was just by the skin of my teeth, or in German, mit Ach und Krach, which Google translates as “with awesome noise.”

Regardless, if there was a language I was going to torture myself with these days, I think it would be Italian. It was with this very vague interest in mind that I found myself drawn to the title Italian Folk Tales and Folk Songs by Frederick A.G. Cowper. When you open the book, the first thing you see is a drawn bookplate stating that this book is from the library of Kenneth L. Hale. The drawing seems to be the head of a wolf, and I’m guessing there is meaning there, probably linked to folk tales.

I was excited to see that this book belonged to Hale because in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections (IASC), there is a collection of Hale’s material (MC-0523). Hale, 1934-2001, was a professor in the Department of Linguistics at MIT from 1966 to 2001. He performed extensive fieldwork beginning in the 1950s, specializing in linguistic theory, Amerindian languages, and Australian languages. In addition to studying Native American and Aboriginal Australian languages, Hale was actively involved in causes promoting the preservation of endangered languages and cultures.

Italian Folk Tales & Folk Songs

Italian Folk Tales and Folk Songs / Frederick A.G. Cowper / page 10. Public domain via the MIT Libraries

Ken Hale note

Correspondence from Bill Bright to Ken Hale with handwritten Hale reply, Correspondence “B”, Kenneth L. Hale Papers, MC 523, box 1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Looking further into the book, I noticed a lot of translating notes handwritten on the pages. I wondered if these were by Hale, or by someone else, either before Hale owned it, or after it went to the MIT Libraries. Comparing the handwriting to an example from his correspondence, I do not think he made the notes in the book. I am not a handwriting expert, so I would love to hear others opinions, but looking specifically at the big loops in his d’s and l’s in the correspondence, I did not see anything similar in the book.

Overall, this looks like a fun book, and a neat way to learn a language. It helps that some of the translating work has already been done for you!