Public Domain Day 2012

Hurray for access! January 1st was Public Domain Day.  On that day, unpublished works by authors who died prior to 1942 became part of the public domain in the United States. This includes works by notable authors such as:
 A more complete list can be seen here.  Lists of authors whose works entered the public domain in 2011 or 2010 are also available.
However there are some conditions around the entrance of works into the public domain.  This legislation only applies to works which have not been previously published and which were not made during parts of employment.  Separate copyright legislation applies to those works.   

Canadian Copyright Reform


Early this week Industry Canada Minister Tony Clement announced a 64-page bill to the House of Commons. Bill C-32 is a proposal to admen current current Canadian copyright legislation. The shortened title of the bill is “the Copyright Modernization Act.” The bill attempts to address to copyright in an increasingly digital world and the full bill can be seen online here.

The tabling of this bill coincided with the release of a government website entitled “Balanced Copyright.” This site breaks down the bill into more manageable sections and provides a good overview for anyone without a legal background looking to understand what this bill potentially means.

Canadian Copyright legislation does need to be updated to reflect the rise of born digital content and the sharing of information virtually. However, any new legislation needs to encourage fair use and consumer rights need to be taken into consideration. The new bill has taken some measures towards improving consumer rights, eg. it would no longer be illegal to copy music from most purchased CDs to an ipod. Despite some improvements to a similar bill proposed in 2008, there is still a tremendous amount of gray area in the bill and content needs to be included which reflects new and evolving born digital mediums.

Views on the proposed bill can be seen here, here, and here.

Heritage Properties Online

In my public history class, we recently discussed heritage legislation in Canada. A portion of our discussion focused on the ineffectiveness of this legislation, and the extent to which the preservation of heritage properties often depended on how active a municipal community was. We also came to the conclusion that more often then not heritage properties appeal to a niche market, some people simply don’t like old houses, while some love them.

Being a history student kind of implies a love or at the least an appreciation for heritage and old buildings. So, after class I explored some municipal websites to see what information was available online about already designated heritage properties. Surprisingly enough not all city or municipality websites actually featured a list of the buildings and properties which had been designated.

However, the city of London, has gone beyond a simple list of properties. The city site includes an interactive map that lets users explore priority rankings of heritage sites, the year they were built, the architectural features of the buildings, and the addressed of all the heritage properties and communities in London. The city of Toronto website does have a Inventory of Heritage Properties. This inventory is searchable by street name, and shows information about the age of each property and the reason it was designated a heritage property. The city of Barrie heritage website does not feature any form of list or database of the city’s heritage properties. However, Heritage Barrie has designed a number of walking tours based on the heritage properties in Barrie, the brochures and maps of these walking tours are available online. The walking tour guides are local history rooted and essentially tell the story of the early development of Barrie.

I personally like the idea of the walking tour guide as it provides a non academic way to present heritage information, includes more information than a mere list, and has the potential to interest a wider audience. The fact that some cities have made a list of heritage properties available shows a commitment to informing the public and to heritage itself.