Six-Gun Gorilla and the Joys of the Public Domain
September 25, 2012
While doing library outreach programs at Grandview High School, I have spent a great deal of time explaining intellectual property rights. Most of the time I’m talking about what people can’t do, usually in regards to downloading books, movies, music, and images from the Internet. Today, I’m going to talk about what you CAN download for free from the Internet. And, it’s all 100% legal. It’s called the public domain.
Broadly speaking, the public domain consists of works whose copyright is forfeited or expired. Determining the copyright status of United States works can be a bit tricky, as copyright has been a popular subject for legislators. Luckily, other folks have gone to the trouble of compiling the rules into a handy chart form, available here. For the United Kingdom, the copyright laws can be found here.
Once a work is in the public domain, it can be freely shared. One notable organization dedicated to making public domain works available on the Internet is Project Gutenberg, which has over 40,000 titles available as eBooks in a wide variety of formats. One convenient way to access these eBooks is via MCPL's OverDrive database.
While services like Project Gutenberg are the main sources for public domain books, there are people out there who are dedicated to finding obscure things in the public domain and making them available on the Internet. That’s where Six-Gun Gorilla comes in. I honestly thought this was a hoax, as it sounds too much like such modern mashups as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
But no, Six-Gun Gorilla was an actual serial that appeared in a British story paper in 1939. Serial fiction was a very popular format in the past, especially in the "pulps," which haven’t survived well due to the cheapness of their manufacture. Thanks to blogger Jess Nevins, however, you can now read the amazing adventures of a pistol-packin’ primate in the Old West. The entire saga is available as a PDF download here.
Wondering what other treasures are out there just waiting for some noble soul with a scanner.