Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Public Domain

The Public Domain is the open grazing ground that all books retire too when they are ‘put out to pasture’. We may visit from time to time and when we come back, we rave about how nice it was, how they just don’t make them like they used to, and what a different place the world is today.

But when faced with the option of returning or trying out that new faster ride that just hit the bestsellers list…the decision more often than not is to go with the unknown.

The remakes of such golden oldies can be either wonderful or disastrous, depending on the author and the care he demonstrates. Who doesn’t want to know what happened to Scarlett when Rhett left so abruptly? Did he really not give a damn? I don’t think so. But sometimes the not knowing might be best.

If you do poach from the land of the free, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting in to. Confirm all copyrights have expired before proceeding. The average length of the rights is 70 years after the death of the author but if there were renewal or special circumstances, it may be longer.

As a reader, it delights me to discover old characters written in new ways but some may not feel this way. They may feel you are crossing a sacred line. You can’t please everyone. Be true to yourself. Do not be afraid to use your voice or tell your own version of the story…even if you tell it through a character who wields a sword and sits at a round table.


  1. Good information. I didn't know about the 70 years wait.

  2. Oh, so that's why all this Jane Austen and Zombies stuff is legal?

    Thanks for the heads up! You're my resident Wise (wo)man!

    I'm going to have to go read all the classics I never got around to!

  3. I thought it might be nice to do a modern-day version of Taming of the Shrew...'til I found out it had been done already! "10 Things I Hate About You." My idea wasn't going to be a young adult version...but still a reversal of the sex roles. But it's been done, unfortunately.


It helps to know I'm not just talking to myself.