The Public Domain Goes to the Public

Remember the bookmobile? Well, it’s back in a new high-tech incarnation, and it’s on a mission:

In a celebration of the Public Domain, the Internet Archive’s Bookmobile will be coming to a town near you, bringing with it the ability to access, download, and print one of the almost 20,000 public domain books currently available online.

Sounds like fun, right? So, what’s the mission? The Public Domain is in trouble:

Over the past forty years, Congress has extended the term of existing copyrights 11 times, thereby stopping the flow of creative material into the public domain. The biggest supporters of these laws are individuals and corporations with extremely valuable copyrights that are about to expire (for example, Mickey Mouse). The biggest effect of these laws is to make unavailable an extraordinary range of creative material for next generation’s creators. Just as Walt Disney used the works of the Brothers Grimm to produce some of the best of the Disney stories, so too should the next Walt Disney be able to build upon the stories told by Disney.

To learn more about the Internet Bookmobile and the importance of the Public Domain, check out Richard Koman’s article for the O’Reilly Network. To learn more about the legal fight, check out the site for The Eric Eldridge Act. If you’re particularly motivated, you can support the cause by signing the Reclaim the Public Domain Petition.

If you just can’t wait for the Internet Bookmobile to come to your town, you can still access the wealth of publicly available texts online at Project Gutenberg, the Internet’s oldest producer of free electronic books.