Is Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language in the public domain?
November 12, 2017 7:03 PM   Subscribe

After reading A Pattern Language, I noticed it was up on Things on the Internet Archive are generally in the public domain or are otherwise noted, but I also know that anyone can upload anything to it. Christopher Alexander is still alive, but is this somehow in the public domain? I'm hoping to do a project with it, and it would make it way easier if this really was in the public domain.
posted by ignignokt to Law & Government (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A Pattern Language was published in 1977. For works published before 1978, copyright in the United States originally expired after 28 years, unless renewed. So if the law were unchanged, it would have entered the public domain in 2005. But renewal was made automatic starting in 1992, and the term was extended retroactively in 1998, to the life of the author plus 70 years. So I don't think this work can be in the public domain in the United States.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:33 PM on November 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I contact publishers regarding copyright permissions pretty regularly for my job. When public domain status isn't obvious, but still a possibility, I reach out to the publisher asking if they still held copyright to the version I wanted to use. The process isn't usually too bad (though it may take some time to get a response). Even if it turns out to be public domain and free to use, it's always good to have that in writing, imo.
posted by lesser weasel at 8:30 PM on November 12, 2017

either way, it's fucking remarkable and everyone should buy a copy.

kurt andersen with alexander AND ward fucking cunningham, developer of the world's first wiki: wikiwikiweb

(, portland pattern repisitory...)
posted by j_curiouser at 9:27 PM on November 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

That podcast should be three hours long, not eleven minutes.
posted by mecran01 at 9:37 PM on November 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's exceedingly unlikely that book is in public domain. I think the most likely explanation is that copy on is unlicensed and would probably be subject to removal if the copyright holder complained. FWIW I've found a lot of scanned books on that almost certainly aren't licensed to be there nor public domain. I've always assumed those were just flying under the radar and that archive would remove them if asked.
posted by Nelson at 1:42 PM on November 13, 2017

It's also possible that Alexander licensed it to the Internet Archive. Given what he's trying to accomplish in the book, that doesn't seem far fetched.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:13 PM on November 13, 2017

Although, after looking at the actual page, that doesn't appear to be what happened here.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:26 PM on November 13, 2017

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