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Project promises to increase free access to tons of 20th-century literature


Jorge Franganillo-(CC BY 2.0)

John Burger - published on 09/30/19

Hundreds of thousands of books could be shared and enjoyed online for nothing.

There may be no better known work of 20th-century American literature than The Great Gatsby. Generations of American students have read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel in high school, and many continue plunking down the nine bucks or so to get it in paperback.

But, depending on the outcome of a major project going on right now, that nine bucks might become unnecessary. Gatsby, and thousands of other titles, might soon be free online.

According to Vice, the changes in copyright law mean that all books published in the U.S. before 1924 are in the public domain, They can be freely used and copied. Books published between 1923 and 1964 may already  be in the public domain if their copyright owners forgot or never bothered to renew their legal protection. Vice suggests that upwards of 75% of books published between 1923 to 1964 are “secretly in the public domain.”

”The problem is determining which books these are, due to archaic copyright registration systems and convoluted and shifting copyright law,” the website explained.

It said that a coalition of libraries, volunteers, and archivists have been working to identify which titles are in the public domain, digitize them, then upload them to the Internet Archive, one of the largest digital archives on the internet.

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