That means that all these examples from 1954 are only the tip of the iceberg. If the pre-1978 law were still in effect, we could have seen 85% of the works created in 1982 enter the public domain on January 1, 2011. Imagine what that would mean to our archives, our libraries, our schools and our culture. Instead, these works will remain under copyright for decades to come, perhaps even into the next century. And for most of them – orphan works – that means they will be both commercially unavailable and culturally off limits, without any benefit going to a copyright holder. Think of the cultural harm that does. How ironic that Samuel Beckett’s English-language version of Waiting for Godot, the existentialist play in which the characters Vladimir and Estragon wait interminably for a Godot who never appears, was published in 1954 and would once have been entering the public domain on January 1, 2011. As Vladimir says in the play: “But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come—” 56 years later, we are still waiting.
via Center for the Study of the Public Domain – What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2011? Wouldn’t it be nice if copyright actually made some sense, but that’s crazy talk.