A few years ago, we wrote about some research by Paul Heald that did an astounding job visually demonstrating how much copyright law today harmsthe dissemination of content. The key graphic was the following one:What it shows is that while new books are available for sale, they quickly go out of print and are basically not available — until you get down to 1923, at which point the works are in the public domain. Think of all those works that are no longer available to buy in that major gap in the middle. Heald has since updated that research to show how serious a problem this is — and demonstrating how the arguments against letting these works into the public domain make no sense. He demolishes the arguments made by some that a public domain will be either “under” or “over” exploited (yes, both arguments are made), as neither makes much sense.
Almost 100 years of American culture is just gone. You can get twice as many books published in 1870 as published in 1970. Out of print instead of public domain.
All those books are out of print, will never be reprinted because the rights are owned by someone who does not want to pay to publish them. Or no one knows who reallyowns the rights and no one wants to spend the money to find out.