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1984 and the Public Domain

While I would go on to complete a degree in Economics, and later end up in Project Management, one of the most important aspects of my education came in Grade 12. Mrs. Boughner, an intelligent, tough, but always fair English teacher taught me a valuable set of skills: how to write, how to understand what you just read, and how to clearly express your position on something.

This class alone was probably the most important part of my high school education. As much as I still use these skills on a daily basis, it also did one other great thing for me – it introduced me to what is still one my favourite novels – George Orwell’s 1984.

If you love Dystopia, war, Post-apocalyptic worlds, or having the bad guys win, then this is an absolute must read. I find myself reading this book at least once a year, and I find that each time it gives me new ideas for story telling and writing in general.

In 1948, George Orwell wrote this tale guessing at what 1984 could look like. His vision is chilling, of a British police state governed by Big Brother, relying on a cruel thought police to keep the population scared, and willing to accept whatever they are told.

So, what does this have to do with the public domain?

George Orwell passed in 1950 – that means that for over 60 years, his estate, publisher, and other stakeholders have been able to monetize one of the most incredible stories ever told. With Orwell passing so soon after its publication, there was never a chance for a sequel or follow up. 1984 has entered the public domain in Canada and Australia, but in the U.K. and United States, fan driven follow ups or proper sequels become increasingly complicated.

By all account, 1984 should have entered the public domain, but changes in copyright laws meant that NO works entered the public domain in 2014, and 1984 will not become public domain in the United States until 2044. These classic stories, which are part of our cultural heritage, are quite simply off limits to a great deal of talented creators. Rather than becoming a great resource to help aspiring storytellers, works like 1984 are essentially locked away and off limits for decades.

Fortunately, Canada is a bit more relaxed on its copyright laws, and 1984 is public domain here. The influence of George Orwell’s classic Dystopia has led me to start writing my own sequel. I hope that one day soon it can find its way into the global market, without barriers or complications. I certainly hope that Big Brother will allow it to see the light of day before 2044 – a time when I, currently in my late 30s, could very well be dead.

The public domain is needed for creativity, and helps these stories to live on. Thousands of authors, fans, and artists can pour their energy into keeping these tales alive, without fear of legal repercussions, and with the potential to cover the costs of a creative project.

1984 and the public domain

War is peace. Slavery is Freedom. Ignore is strength.

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