When the poor fellow waiting in the picture above was published, copyright in printed matter in the UK expired at the same time the author did. By 1842 copyright outlived the author by 7 years. By 1911 it became 50 years post mortem. Now copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s demise. Admittedly rather a long wait.
At least our very patient friend above has time on his side. And at least he can console himself with the fact that – if he can wait long enough – everything will enter the public domain eventually 1.
If, like us, you probably won’t be able to wait that long, you can catch a glimpse of a bright, free, copyright-unencumbered world at The Public Domain Review. If you like what you see then you can sign up for free articles and collections to your inbox, and follow it on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.