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Boas, Malinowski, Musil enter the Public Domain

No doubt somewhere there is a blog which rigorously documents works brought into the public domain by the expiration of their copyright – but I haven’t found it yet. In Europe the rule for print is simple: seventy years after the death of the author. For our purposes that means that the books/articles etc of authors who died in 1942. Three authors from the long list here caught my eye.

Franz Boas spent a lot of time in Berlin before leaving Germany for the US, partially driven by anti-Semitism. There he became one of the founders of modern anthropology and an important opponent of those who sought to legitimise racial inequality on the basis of biology. Boas died in the company of Levi-Strauss after lunch in Columbia University where he had taught for many years. A couple of his texts are up on Project Gutenberg, but rather little considering the scale of his ouput.

Sticking with anthropology I came across the work of Bronislaw Malinowski while reading Marcel Mauss’s “The Gift” where he is cited as authority on the patterns of gift circulation in Melanesia. He did extensive fieldwork on the Trobriand Islands and is credited for coining the term of ‘participant observation’. Notwithstanding his fame Malinowski has been heavily criticised by other anthropologists for his racist attitudes towards the Trobrianders whom he treats ‘primitives’ in his diaries.

Lastly Robert Musil, born in Austria, he lived for much of the 1920s in Berlin but returned to Vienna in 1933, where he remained until the Anschluss when he and his Jewish wife fled for Switzerland. His “Man Without Qualities”, an unfinished trilogy, is a much admired modernist novel, and has been lingering on my endless reading list for some time now. The first two parts were published prior to his death, but the last instalment was released posthumously by his wife in 1943.

All entered the public domain on January 1st this year, although in the case of Musil this obviously applies only to the German original of his works – the english translations which appeared int he 1950s will have separate copyrights of their own.


March 31, 2013 - Posted by | /

1 Comment »

  1. Hello,
    do you know this site?
    They are celebrating Public Domain Day each year on jan.1th.


    Comment by Felix | July 3, 2013 | Reply

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