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August 27, 2003 9:49 PM   Subscribe

An anotated list of the best-selling classics, (as compiled by Book Magazine), showing the years in which they will become public domain under current copyright law. Fans of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises will be in luck in 2021; Memoirs of a Geisha will go public sometime in the early 2100s.
[Via Vidiot's brand new blog.]
posted by me3dia (5 comments total)
Probably goes without saying that this is under US copyright law. Dates in other countries may be different (or maybe not...). Should also have noted that these aren't the best-selling classics of all time, but rather of 2002.
posted by me3dia at 9:55 PM on August 27, 2003

I thought the U.S. had 'perpetual copyrights', in that the length of copyrights keeps getting extended every few years. I doubt many of these will see the public domain.
posted by bobo123 at 10:18 PM on August 27, 2003

Since when do books published a mere 6 years ago constitute listing amongst the "classics"? Memoirs of a Geisha and The Red Tent seem oddly out of place here.

Which shouldn't derail the more pertinent discussion of copyright laws. I just felt the need to point this out.
posted by aladfar at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2003

I thought the same thing, aladfar. On the other hand, certain books do become instant classics, and Memoirs, at least, strikes me as one of those books, along with Interview with a Vampire for its endurance in the horror/fantasy genre.

What strikes me is the fact that so many books will, as bobo123 pointed out, probably never enter the public domain. Then again, by 2100 the "information is free" forces may have won and copyright as we know it may be a thing of the past. Perhaps mp3s are only the beginning of that revolution.
posted by me3dia at 8:22 AM on August 28, 2003

certain books do become instant classics

Hmm. Is Jonathan Livingston Seagull a classic? You might have been told so in 1973 when it was the biggest seller of the year and one of the most talked-about books in the nation.

Thirty years later, it doesn't seem important enough to most readers to bear that label in wide point is that while the term 'classic' when applied to a novel (or any other piece of art) is always open to a great degree of debate, it at least appeals to a consensus over time of the work's significance and relevance. You may or may not like Faulkner, but you're probably not going to groan when someone refers to The Sound and the Fury as a classic. But the "instant classic" designation never works for me -- we're too close to novels like Geisha to know whether "classic" will make sense as an appellation down the road.
posted by BT at 3:15 PM on August 28, 2003

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