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Answering the copyright question for books published 1923-1963

Okay, we know books published in the U.S. before 1923 are probably in public domain. And the copyright of books published after 1963 was automatically renewed. But books published in the forty years between those two dates might or might not be in public domain, depending on whether the copyright holder renewed the copyright.

Books published in the U.S. during those years received an initial copyright term of 28 years, meaning the if the work was originally published in 1932, for example, its copyright would expire in 1960. But the copyright holder could renew the copyright for another 47 years in the final year of its first term (that is, in the 28th year). And, further complicating matters, anything that was under copyright in 1998 had its term extended for an additional 20 years. That means that a book published in 1932 is either in public domain or under copyright until 2027.

That’s a big difference, so which is it? To find out whether the copyright of a book from the 1923-1963 period was renewed, one used to have to commission a copyright search through the copyright office, which generally costs about $75. But now some institutions are putting the copyright database online, so if you’re planning to put some classic text on your website, and you want to be sure you’re legal, you can research it here:

Editing Reality

No, despite the title this is not another post about the Bush administration. It’s a link to an interesting video demonstrating how editing can manipulate viewers’ impressions of reality — the basis of “reality” television shows.

Via Swiss Miss via Random Culture

It seems so right somehow

Cheney video set to Radiohead’s “Creep.”

Free Vista Fonts

If you have a Windows system but you aren’t running Vista you can still legally install the new Vista fonts (which will work fine without Vista) for free. They are packaged with Microsoft’s PowerPoint Viewer 2007. You can download the viewer here, and the fonts will be available on your system after you install it.

vista fonts

link: About Vista fonts, from PoyterOnline

Strange Maps

kerouac map

Swiss Miss called my attention to this excellent blog called “Strange Maps.” Many of the maps aren’t really strange, but almost all are interesting. Shown is Jack Kerouac’s map of a cross-country trip that served as fodder for On the Road.

Compare Kerouac’s map to this one, the Bellman’s ocean map from Lewis Carroll‘s “The Hunting of the Sanrk.”

bellman's map

An Economist Writes on Love

The letter to the Financial Times went like this:

Dear Economist,

I’m looking for ”the one”. Is he out there?


Ruth, Barcelona

And the answer, from Tim Hartford, the “Undercover Economist”:

Dear Ruth,

It might help if we understand which elements of marriage are common to many potential husbands, and which are unique to ”the one”.

First, marriage offers economies of scale in production, particularly production of children. Husband and wife can each specialise in different skills, according to their comparative advantage. I fail to see why you cannot realise these economies of scale with almost anyone. Second, there are economies of scale in consumption. One garden will do, so will one kitchen.

The real question, then, is whether you can stand the person you marry enough to enjoy these efficiencies. Here, economics had little to say until a recent breakthrough by the economists Michele Belot and Marco Francesconi. They examined data from a speed-dating company, and discovered, unsurprisingly, that women like tall, rich, well-educated men. Men like slim, educated women who do not smoke.

The more intriguing finding emerged when pickings were scarce. Women ”ticked” about 10 per cent of men as worthy of further investigation, regardless of the quality of a particular crop. If the men were short and poor, then the women lowered their standards, and still picked 10 per cent. The men, too, abandoned unrealistic ambitions. They ”ticked” about a quarter of the women, regardless of quality. This happened even though each could have a complimentary speed date another time if he or she found no one they liked.

My conclusion: even when there is little to be lost from maintaining standards, people are very quick to lower them. My advice: do likewise.

Orwell Saw the Writing on the Wall

No, wait, it’s a camera.

Orwellian Evening Standard article on surveillance cameras around Orwell’s home via exploding aardvark

Are We Evolving?

the divine touch

Not much sign of it in this Newsweek poll. Among its findings:

  • Nearly half of all Americans believe that evolution is not well supported by evidence and is not widely accepted within the scientific community (despite numerous expressions of scientific support from Nobel Prize winners, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the United States National Academy of Science, the American Geological Institute, and many others)
  • The same percentage (and nearly three-quarters of evangelical protestants) believe God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years (in other words, they were created more recently than many known human artifacts — I mean, even freaking Fox News acknowledges that).

To accommodate this kind of information I’ve added the a new blog category called “sigh.”

Where (and How) Evolution is Taught in the U.S.


How to Moonwalk

moonwalkStep-by step-instructions here.

My Sweet Lord

my sweet lordLooks like the Roger Smith Hotel in New York has caved in to demands from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to remove the art piece My Sweet Lord by Cosimo Cavallaro. A six-foot-tall representation of Jesus on the cross made of chocolate, the piece has apparently offended the League more by its nudity than its calories. (Cavallaro, by the way, has also worked in the demanding medium of ham and cheese.)

All of which is just an excuse for the link below to Tom Waits singing “Chocolate Jesus.”

Swim, Swim, Swim!

swimming across the atlantic

Are you in shape for following step 12 in the instructions shown in the screen capture?

Via Google Blogoscoped. While at GB, check out Raymond Chandler’s 1953 mention of Google.

John McCain Supports Gay Marriage, “Particularly Between Passionate Females”

… according to his website. Explanation: he was stealing images (ripping off bandwidth) for his myspace site and the image host retaliated with a little prank.

I know how the guy (Newsvine Founder and CEO Mike Davidson) feels. What is it about myspace sites? Lately a lot of myspace pages have been using my bandwidth by linking to images from this site without attribution. I wouldn’t mind if they credited the link, but I’ve been getting dinged every time their pages load and getting nothing back in return. So I’ve had to put a little code in my .htaccess file to serve up a different image instead. (Maybe after a while I’ll try removing this and see if it gets to be a problem again.)

Original story and screenshots here.

Related: Horking Vark.

Pandas Are Getting into Publishing

pandas by tom

Publishers have been accused of pandering to an ignorant public. The time has come to panda to them instead. And researchers at a giant panda reserve in southern China are helping to make it happen.

The thing about giant pandas is they’re not just cute they’re also big. And they eat a lot of bamboo. Enough to produce about a hundred pounds of dung daily. That will fertilize a pretty big bamboo grove, which will support more pandas, which …. Anyway, I image the panda reserve researchers were getting a little tired of pulling on their hip boots every time they headed into the grove.

That’s where the story comes back to publishing. They are turning the panda poop into “high-quality paper.” In fact, according to Liu Jun, a researcher at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base in Sichuan province, the panda poop should be even better for making paper than elephant dung.

So soon you may be able to help to save the environment by buying books printed on panda dung. And help those idlers the pandas to be gainfully employed.


(panda drawing by tom)

Windows Most Secure OS

according to Symantec. Its tests show the operating systems fall out this way, from most to least secure:

  • Windows (Vista?)
  • Linux
  • Mac OS X
  • HP-UX

The full story, at internetnews.com.

Mambo de la Luna

Lately I’ve been listening to Kirsty MacColl’s Tropical Brainstorm … mostly at work, however, as folks at home are getting a little tired of it. Click below for a sample.

Dolling Up the Classics

jane austen enhanced

Is the attractiveness of authors directly related to their promotability in the minds of publishers today? Certainly to judge by the photos on their dust jackets, authors have gotten collectively younger and cuter every year for the past several years. Some publishers deny, however, that they place any importance on author photos. I guess Wordworth Editions is not among them. For a reissue of Austen they have tarted Jane up a bit. The image on the left is the portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra (said to be the only fully authenticated portrait of the author). The image on the right shows the effects of Wordworth’s Photoshop magic: Jane’s bonnet has been removed and replaced with flowing locks, her cheeks have been rouged, and if I’m not mistaken she has had some subtle nips and tucks about the eyes and mouth. Wordworth’s managing editor Helen Traylor explains:

She was not much of a looker. Very, very plain. Jane Austen wasn’t very good looking. She’s the most inspiring, readable author, but to put her on the cover wouldn’t be very inspiring at all. It’s just a bit off-putting.

I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Sadly people do. If you look more attractive, you just stand out more. Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world and people do judge by appearance.

I guess that about sums it up: “Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world.”

Link: Jane Too Plain for Publishers

Related: “Young” authors are younger than they used to be.

Ochre Ellipse

ochre ellipseOver at Mumbling Mynah Jonas is offering copies of his graphic book Ochre Ellipse for just $3.00. The cover is shown. “What I was trying to do,” he says about the cover, “was copy some children’s drawings from an old issue of Highlights I found at SCRAP.”

I suppose narrative pictorial art is on my mind because I’ve been working on labels and text panels for the Asian Art Museum’s Yoshitoshi and Tezuka exhibitions the past few days.

Worlds of Words

Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate — and, therefore, improve — our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgment….

From “Pay Attention to the World,” a posthumous essay by Susan Sontag, reprinted in the Guardian

Book Publishing Glossary

To accommodate the new comment from BR, I’m moving the following post from my old blog, Frozen Coagulated Culture, over here. This provides a place for people to leave comments.


Originally posted May 07, 2006

New at rightreading.com, a glossary of book publishing terms.

A few sample entries:

BOOK REVIEW: A recycled press release offered to publishers by newspaper and magazine sales departments as an inducement to advertising.

DEADLINE: An item that exists to be renegotiated and revised. In his famous paradox, the Greek philosopher Zeno proved that deadlines can never be met.

FOREIGN MARKET: The part of the country outside New York City.

FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR: An annual international exhibition of artwork on paper.

LINE EDITOR: An escort charged with limiting an author’s consumption of cocaine.

MAINSTREAM FICTION: The pretense that there is a group of readers who can be reached through writing that is sufficiently unspecific as to exclude no one.


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