Best Public Domain Essays

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A waiter falls on hard times when prohibition is passed.

This early account of true crime tells the tale of an “honest” bootlegger who supplied liquor to New York.

That's not to say you don't also have more temporal motivations; but in my experience those motivations are seldom primary, in large part because of the sheer dedication to your craft that is needed (often from an early age) to truly excel in creative production.

The drive to create comes first, and only later do you discover that as a result of creation can come fame, fortune, power, and prestige.

You like to write, compose, draw, paint, sculpt, photograph, perform, or engage in some other creative activity. Most people make five assumptions about creative individuals: It is only government-enforced copyright that keeps a creative work safe from the ravages of violation and abuse; when it is no longer so protected, it lapses into a fearsome state of desuetude and disregard called the public domain.

These assumptions seem as natural as the air we breathe. My creative activities -- writing, composing, and the like -- are a large part of who I am, and I didn't want others to profit from or modify my works.

But at long last, 2019 has arrived and the rights to hundreds of books, movies, and art have lifted, meaning all that was once under legal lock and key can now be read, watched, and re-imagined a little more freely.

For crime fiction and classic mysteries, the implications are notable to say the least.

Indeed, I would hazard that most creative individuals never seek to make a living from their creative output; granted, such individuals are typically the equivalent of Sunday composers, but even some well-known writers and composers (such as William Carlos Williams and Charles Ives) have made their living in other professions and have pursued their creative endeavors on the side.

(I, too, have followed this path, which is one reason why I have been so open to questioning copyright -- I never expected to make money from my creative endeavors in the first place.) Creative individuals don't merely produce works; they also publish them.


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