How We’re Celebrating the Sweet Public Domain

This is a guest blog by the amazing Kaylen Dwyer, a GA in Scholarly and Communication Publishing

Collage of the Honey Bunch series

As William Tringali mentioned last week, 2019 marks an exciting shift in copyright law with hundreds of thousands of works entering the public domain every January 1st for the next eighteen years. We are setting our clocks back to the year of 1923—to the birth of the Harlem Renaissance with magazines like The Crisis, to first-wave feminists like Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy L. Sayers, back to the inter-war period.

Copyright librarian Sara Benson has been laying the groundwork to bring in the New Year and celebrate the wealth of knowledge now publicly available for quite some time, leading up to a digital exhibit, The Sweet Public Domain: Honey Bunch and Copyright, and the Re-Mix It! Competition to be held this spring.

A collaborative effort between Benson, graduate assistants, and several scholarly contributors, The Sweet Public Domain celebrates creative reuse and copyright law. Last year, GA Paige Kuester spent time scouring the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in search of something that had never been digitized before, something at risk of being forgotten forever, not because it is unworthy of attention, but because it has been captive to copyright for so long.

We found just the thing—the beloved Honey Bunch series, a best-selling girls’ series by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The syndicate become known for its publication of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and many others, but in 1923 they kicked off the adventures of Honey Bunch with Just a Little Girl, Her First Visit to the City, and Her First Days on the Farm.

Through the digital exhibit, The Sweet Public Domain: Honey Bunch and Copyright, you can explore all three books, introduced by Deidre Johnson (Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate, 1993) and LuElla D’Amico (Girls Series Fiction and American Popular Culture, 2017). To hear more about copyright and creative reuse, you can find essays by Sara Benson, our copyright librarian, and Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker and producer of Everything is a Remix.

If you are a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, you can engage with the public domain by making new and innovative work out of something old and win up to $500 for your creation. Check out the Re-Mix It! Competition page for contest details and be sure to check out our physical exhibit in the Marshall Gallery (Main Library, first floor east entrance) for ideas.

Logo for the Remix It competition

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