Coming out of copyright ...

As in previous years, the IPKat has compiled a little list of characters who, having died in 1938, will no longer be protected by copyright in respect of authors' works in those countries in which the term of copyright protection expires at the end of the 70th year after the year in which they died. As from tomorrow, therefore, in those many countries, you will be able to exploit commercially, without let or hindrance, the works of the following creators:

Grey Owl (1888-1938)

Archibald Belaney was born into an English farming family and was raised in the Hastings countryside by his grandmother and two maiden aunts. He left school at the age of sixteen and moved to Canada shortly after in 1905. Belaney told people he was the son of an Apache woman and had emigrated from the US to join the Ojibwa. He adopted a native indentity and the name ‘Grey Owl’ (or Wa-sha-quon-asin, from the Ojibwe wenjiganoozhiinh, meaning "great grey owl"). After several years working as a wilderness guide and forest ranger, Grey Owl started to publish his writings about wilderness life. In his articles and books he promoted the ideas of environmentalism and nature conservation. In the later years of his life, Grey Owl toured England in Ojibwa costume to publicise his works and lecture on conservationism. His aunts recognised him but remained silent. It was only after his death in 1938 that doubts arose over his First Nations identity. The discovery that ‘Grey Owl’ was an invention led to some of his books being withdrawn from publication, and general disillusionment with his conservationalist causes.

C.J. Dennis (1876-1938)

Declared by his Prime Minister as “the Robert Burns of Australia”, C.J. Dennis is famous for his humorous poetry. Clarence James Dennis (known as ‘Clarrie’) was born in Auburn, South Australia, and published his first poem at the age of nineteen. He went on to publish in “The Bulletin”, and is considered one of Australia’s three most famous poets. Dennis’ 1916 publication of The Sentimental Bloke sold 65,000 copies in its first year. The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke are written in dialect, describing the day-to-day adventures of a man, his girl Doreen, and friend Ginger Mick. Over the decades The Sentimental Bloke has been adapted as a stage play, a silent film, a sound film and a musical, with the title character even featuring on a series of Australian stamps in the 1980s.

Ben Harney (1872-1938)

Despite the fact that Benjamin Robertson Harney was claimed by some to be African-American, records prove that the pioneer musician Ben Harney was born into a well-established white family from Tennessee. His early songs were great hits in the 1890s, and the sheet music of “Cake Walk in the Sky” is the first written example of vocal ragging. Harney then moved to New York, where he became known as “the rag time pianist”. By 1897 Harney had published Ben Harney’s Rag Time Instructor, with the first descriptions of how to improvise ragtime music by syncopating popular tunes. As ragtime became increasingly popular, Harney began to advertise himself as “the Father of Ragtime”. It is debatable whether or not he deserved such a title, but there is little doubt that Harney was a highly influential figure in the development of American ragtime music.

Sir Muhammed Iqbal (1877-1938)

Muhammed Iqbal was born in British India (now Pakistan) into a deeply religious Muslim family. Proficient in several languages, Iqbal travelled and studied widely, obtaining qualifications in philosophy, English literature, Arabic and Law from various institutions in Europe, including Cambridge University. Dividing his time between law and poetry, Iqbal directed his works towards the wider Muslim community, lamenting the state of disunity and the loss of spiritual and religious values. Writing in Persian and Urdu, Iqbal worked on reinstating the Islamic principle of unity and solidarity amongst Muslims in India. He became the first politician to articulate the ‘Two-Nation Theory’ – that Muslims needed political independence from other regions of India. The latter part of Iqbal’s life was dedicated to political activity, and his vision of an independent Muslim state inspired the creation of Pakistan. Widely referred to as Allama (‘the scholar’) Iqbal, his Urdu and Persian poetry is regarded amongst the greatest of the modern era, and the anniversary of his birth is marked as a national holiday in Pakistan to this day.

Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938)

Born and educated in England, Newbolt graduated from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and was a practising lawyer until 1899. His first novels were written in the early 1890s, but his literary reputation was not established until the publication of Admirals All, a set of ballads produced in 1897. The best known of these, and the poem for which Newbolt is mainly remembered, is “Vitaï Lampada”. The ballad is written about a future soldier who learns stoicism from playing cricket. The poem was highly regarded during the First World War, but became heavily satirised by soldiers returning from the Western Front. The poet was knighted in 1915, and awarded the ‘Companion of Honour’ seven years later. Newbolt’s 1914 fantasy novel Aladore was reissued by Newcastle Publishing Company in 1975, as the new holders of the copyright.

E.C. Segar (1894-1938)

Elzie Crisler Segar was an American cartoonist, the son of an Illinois handyman. He was determined to make his way as a cartoonist from the age of eighteen, investing $20 in a correspondance course in cartooning. After a day working as a film projectionist in the local theater, Segar would “light the oil lamps” and work on his course until three in the morning. His first comic, “Charlie Chaplin’s Comedy Capers”, was published in 1916. Segar eventually worked his way into New York, drawing Thimble Theatre for the New York Journal. The strip featured the characters ‘Olive Oyl’, ‘Castor Oyl’ and ‘Ham Gravy’. It was not for another ten years, in 1929, that ‘Popeye’ joined their ranks. The new character was enormously popular and became the permanent featured character of the comic strip. After Segar’s early death from liver disease at the age of forty-three, his assistant Bud Sagendorf continued to produce the comic for decades to come.

Kasym Tynystanov (1901-1938)

Kasym Tynystanov was born in 1901 in a small village of Issyk Kul district. Before the Socialist Revolution, Kyrgyz people had no written language but Kasym learnt to read and write the Arabic alphabet from his father. At the start of the twentieth century, the level of literacy amongst Kyrgyz nomads was approximately two per cent. In 1916, after an unsuccussful revolution, most of the residents of Issyk Kul fled to China to escape from Russian troops, Kasym and his family among them. When they returned, Kasym spent two years trying to get an education, eventually finding some opportunities in Almaty. As a student in Tashkent city, Kasym started to develop the first Kyrgyz alphabet. Four years later, the first Kyrgyz screenplay was performed by students from Tashkent and Almaty. Some of Kasym’s poetry and prose began to appear in Kazakh newspapers, printed in his new Kyrgyz script. Kasym’s songs, also written in this script, were very popular with Kyrgyz youth. In 1924 after the approval of the new alphabet, Tynystanov created the first Kyrgyz readers for the first three grades of primary school. Some ninety percent of the whole terminology created by Kasym is still in use today. He created curricular as well as textbooks on language study for pedagogic institutes. Alone and as a co-author he compiled terminological dictionaries on seven subjects. Kasym served as the Kygyz Republic’s first Minister of Education, establishing in his short lifetime the country’s first and lasting system of education.

Zitkala-Sa (d.1938)

Zitkala-Sa, which translates as Red Bird, was a native American writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She was raised in South Dakota, in traditional style, on the Yankton Sioux Reservation. When she reached the age of eight, Zitkala-Sa was removed from the Reservation to attend a Quaker Mission school in Indiana, designed to ‘civilise’ Indian children. From there she went on to study at the Boston Conservatory of Music. In 1913, Zitkala-Sa composed the first American-Indian grand opera, The Sun Dance. Living in Boston as a teacher, she began to publish short stories and autobiographical anecdotes. These were serialised and later published in a collection called American Indian Stories. Zitkala-Sa’s first novel was compiled from folktales gathered during visits home to the Reservation. In her later years, Zitkala-Sa moved away from legend and autobiographical narrative to produce political works, alongside her work as a research agent for the Indian Welfare Committee. She published montly articles and a number of books depicting the hardships of being forced away from home into boarding school, and the alienation she felt in both worlds.

César Vallejo (1892-1938)

Although he published only three books of poetry, Vallejo was considered an extremely influential poet of the twentieth century. He was born in a village in the Peruvian Andes, as one of eleven children. Whilst working on a sugar plantation, Vallejo witnessed the exploitation of agrarian workers, which had a great impact on his political views. In 1916 Vallejo moved to Lima where he worked as a schoolteacher, meeting artistic and political avant-gardes. It was in Lima that he published his first poetry collection in 1919. The next few years were an extremely disastrous period for him: he had an affair, lost his job, his mother died, and he served a short term in prison. When he emerged in 1922 Vallejo produced his second book of poems, Trilce, which remains one of the most radically avant-garde collections in Spanish literature. His last burst of poetic activity came in the late 1930s, after being emotionally involved in the Spanish Civil War. Vallejo also wrote a number of novels and plays, not all of which were published in his lifetime.

Wang Zhen (1967-1938)

Wang Zhen was a modern Chinese artist of the Shanghai school. Wang Zhen was a close disciple of the painter Wu Changshuo, who became his mentor. There are those who claim that certain paintings attributed to Wu Changshuo are actually by Wang Zhen. Wang Zhen spent most of his life in Shanghai. He was an expert calligrapher as well as a painter, and specialised in portraying flowers, birds and Buddhist subjects. Wang Zhen’s paintings were particularly popular in Japan at the time, and this Japanese association is considered to be the reason why the artist never achieved great success amongst his compatriots, a fact which remains to be rectified.

The IPKat says, if you'd like to nominate any other authors, artists, dramatists, composers etc for the 1938 Hall of Fame, please post your suggestions as comments below.
Coming out of copyright ... Coming out of copyright ... Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. What about the songs of the legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson of Crossroads fame? Not the West Midlands Crossroads with Benny and his funny hat.....

  2. The list/compilation of authors who died in 1938 is available at (Coalition of Open Education).
    There is also Wikipedia's entry -

  3. Fortunately, in Canada, we only have to wait to the end of the 50th year post mortem auctoris.

    Grey Owl was one of ours...

    And on the stroke of midnight tonight we'll see the "coming out" of Robert W. Service whose iconic poem beloved by many Canadian school child begins thus:

    There are strange things done in the midnight sun,
    By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
    That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
    But the queerest they ever did see
    Was the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
    I cremated Sam McGee.

    Too bad you folks over there will have to wait another 20 years before you can legally reproduce the rest of this tale... ;-)

  4. I think that the Kat is chasing the wrong mouse for some of these works. Remember, when the US "joined" Berne, it threw in some flat-term limits on material published before 1978 that may well be longer than life-plus-70. In particular, the US copyright on 1929 Popeye cartoons would not expire until 01 Jan 2025, because they fall under a publication-plus-95 term.

    I'm not saying this is a good thing; it is, however, what it is.

  5. Of course, these authors are only public domain temporarily, until the next time the European Union takes it upon itself to extend the term of protection. Several distinguished authors (Housman, Belloc, Kipling..) have been going in and out of copyright like figures in a weather house.

  6. My nominee is Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues and, according to Eric Clapton, the "most important blues singer that ever lived".

    All the songs that he first recorded are copyrighted to him/his estate (although it is widely believed that some of them were tunes he picked up on the road/learned from others rather than original compositions).

  7. See Wikipedia at, copyright holders, no doubt, among them:

    • January 8 - Johnny Gruelle, American cartoonist and children's book author (Raggedy Ann) (b. 1880)
    • January 20 - Émile Cohl, French caricaturist and animator (b. 1857)
    • January 21 - Georges Méliès, French film director (A Trip To The Moon) (b. 1861)
    • January 28 - Bernd Rosemeyer, German racing driver (b. 1909)
    • February 2 - Frederick William Vanderbilt, American railway magnate (b. 1856)
    • February 7 - Harvey Firestone, American tire manufacturer (b. 1868)
    • February 18 - David King Udall, American politician (b. 1851)
    • February 19 - Edmund Landau, German mathematician (b. 1877)
    • March 1 - Gabriele D'Annunzio, Italian writer, war hero, and politician (b. 1863)
    • March 2 - Ben Harney, American composer and pianist (b. 1871)
    • March 13 - Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin, Soviet politician (b. 1888)
    • March 13 - Clarence Darrow, American attorney (b. 1857)
    • April 8 - Joe "King" Oliver, African-American jazz musician (b. 1885)
    • April 12 - Feodor Chaliapin, Russian bass (b. 1873)
    • April 16 - Steve Bloomer, English footballer (b. 1874)
    • April 21 - Allama Iqbal, Indian philosopher and poet (b. 1877)
    • April 25 - Aleksander Świętochowski, Polish writer (b. 1849)
    • April 26 - Edmund Husserl, Austrian philosopher (b. 1859)
    • May 4 - Carl von Ossietzky, German pacifist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1889)
    • May 9 - Thomas B. Thrige, Danish industrialist (b. 1866)
    • May 13 - Charles Edouard Guillaume, French physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1861)
    • May 26 - John Jacob Abel, American pharmacologist (b. 1857)
    [edit] July-December
    • July 4 - Otto Bauer, Austrian Social Democratic politician (b. 1881)
    • August 1 - Edmund Charles Tarbell, American artist (b. 1862)
    • August 7 - Constantin Stanislavski, Russian theatre practitioner (b. 1863)
    • August 14 - Hugh Trumble, Australian test cricketer (b. 1876)
    • August 16 - Robert Johnson, African-American blues singer (b. 1911)
    • September 1 - Nikolai Bryukhanov, Soviet statesman and political figure who served as People's Commissar of Finances (b. 1878)
    • September 17 - Bruno Jasieński, Polish poet (b. 1901)
    • September 25 - Paul Olaf Bodding, Norwegian missionary to India and creator of the Santali latin alphabet (b. 1865)
    • October 2 - Alexandru Averescu, Romanian soldier and politician (b. 1859)
    • October 13 - E.C. Segar, American comics artist (Popeye)
    • October 17 - Karl Kautsky, Austrian Marxist theoretician (b. 1854)
    • October 22 - May Irwin, Canadian actress and singer (b. 1862)
    • October 24 - Ernst Barlach, German sculptor and poet (b. 1870)
    • October 27 - Lascelles Abercrombie, English poet and critic (b. 1881)
    • November 9 - Vasily Blyukher, Soviet military commander (b. 1889)
    • November 10 - Kemal Atatürk, President of Turkey (b. 1881)
    • November 20 - Maud of Wales, queen of Haakon VII of Norway (b. 1869)
    • November 30 - Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, Romanian fascist, leader of the Iron Guard (executed along other Guard activists) (b. 1899)
    • December 11 - Christian Lous Lange, Norwegian pacifist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1869)
    • December 20 - Annie Armstrong, American missionary leader (b. 1850)
    • December 25 - Karel Čapek, Czech author (R.U.R.) (b. 1890)
    • December 28 - Florence Lawrence, Canadian actress (b. 1886)

  8. In India, the term of copyright is life of the author plus sixty years. Therefore, the most prominent works of literature that came to public domain from January 1 is that of Mr.M.K.Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi),India's father of nation, who died in 1948.

  9. Wang Zhen (1967-1938)

    Wang Zhen died at age -29?

    Where is the Department for Miniscule Emendations?

    Or is this not miniscule enough??


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