Sunday, January 20, 2019

Book Market Braces For Expired Copyrights Of Classics To Flood Internet

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Thousands of books will enter the public domain in 2019, including classic works by iconic writers such as Marcel Provst, D.H. Lawrence, Agatha Christie Edith Wharton, Robert Frost, and Rudyard Kipling.  A large body of works will lose their copyright this year, which means some author estates and publishers will not make as much money as they used to, while the public will be saturated with a variety of editions to choose from and they will likely be available at cheaper prices. 

As a result, some of these books may get greater exposure with more publishers hawking their editions.

Why the sudden surge of books losing their copyright status?  According to The New York Times this “traces back to legislation Congress passed in 1998, which extended copyright protections by 20 years.  The law reset the copyright term for works published from 1923 to 1977-- lengthening it from 75 years to 95 years after publication – essentially freezing their protected status.”

So what’s wrong with that you say?


No. 1, writers – or likely their estates – will no longer control the content.  This means that anyone, for any reason, can republish the work, write unauthorized sequels or spin-offs, or even alter the original book.  As a writer what protects your legacy?

No. 2, the writer and heirs should still cash-in on the works.  Why should they suddenly have others selling their product and seeing money they should be getting go into someone else’s pocket?

No. 3, now free copies of the book can circulate.  Just post an e-book of a 1923 classic and give it away.  Do we need more free books flooding the marketplace?  Google Books, which has more than 30 million works scanned in its vast online digital library, can now release its newest ones from the past, including Tarzan and the Golden Lion, and Edith Wharton’s A Son at the Front.

“Publishers are right to be concerned about a proliferation of unreliable editions, some of them probably not very good,” said John Kulka, the editorial director of library of America, a nonprofit that publishes American literature, classics, according to the Times article recently.

The Prophet and the Zombie, a slim book of spiritual fables, was published nearly a century ago and has sold nearly nine million copies.  This January 1st it entered the public domain.  Anyone with a smart phone or laptop can start selling it – or giving it out for free.

In 2021, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby comes up for an expired copyright.  Next year Billy Budd, The Magic Mountain and Winnie-the-Pooh’s When We Were Very Young will be in the public domain.  

Just think, in 2115 your book published this year will be available to all -- and you won't earn money from it or have a say in your legacy..

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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