May 27, 2022

OCLC’s Merrilee Proffitt Reports on the Recent “Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain” Event at the Internet Archive

From an OCLC Research/Hanging Together Post by Merrilee Proffitt, Senior Manager, OCLC Research:

On January 25 I attended an event celebrating the “re-opening” of the public domain in the United States. January 1, 2019 marked the end of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, a law which froze copyright for published works at 1923. The meeting was co-hosted by the Internet Archive and Creative Commons, two organizations that are allied in promoting the benefits of providing open access to creative and other works.

Though the event was a celebration it’s important to note that the copyright term in the US was rather shamefully on ice for 20 years. No new published works came into the public domain during that time. The event was very focused on the circumstances of US copyright law. I was disappointed that there was scant mention of Fair Use or orphan works. However, a “re-opening” the public domain provided more than enough to talk about and indeed, to celebrate.

If you have been to an event at the San Francisco-based Internet Archive, you know that the building is a former Christian Science Church. What I didn’t know is that the church was built in 1923, which made it an even more appropriate location. IA staff and others dressed in period costume. Contributing to the festive feel, a band played tunes from 1923 (now in the public domain) like “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”

Read Merrilee ‘s Complete Post (1338 words)
Includes a summary of each panel discussion.

The report notes that a video recording of the entire conference program is available.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.