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Strange Life Cycle: Works Enter the Public Domain, But How Do They Get There?

Robert Spoo, Department of English

Mon, 4/1 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · Firestone Library, Special Collections, C-Floor

Princeton University Library

The public domain is often described as the final phase of copyright’s life cycle: ownership by one followed by ownership for all. But in the United States, paths to the public domain have not been so simple. Historically, the US public domain has claimed works too early or too late, and sometimes has given them back to copyright. This talk highlights important works that appeared in 1928—by Claude McKay, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Walt Disney, and others featured in Princeton Special Collections’ curated selection—and shows that copyright’s life cycle has been anything but a predictable journey for many works.

Robert Spoo is the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Professor in Irish Letters at Princeton University. Previously, he was the Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of English at the University of Tulsa, where he edited and (later) co-edited the James Joyce Quarterly. He earned his BA in English at Lawrence University and his MA and PhD in English at Princeton, where he held a Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities and later taught as a Lecturer. He received his JD from Yale Law School; after graduating, he served as judicial clerk to the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor when she was a member of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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