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Announcing The Public Domain Game Jam: Gaming Like It's 1923

Gaming Like It's 1923: The Newly Public Domain Game Jam

Happy new year, everyone. Every year, soon after the new year, we post a somewhat disappointing post describing how, once again, no new works have gone into the public domain in the US, because various lobbying interests have continued to extend copyright over and over again, with the last such extension coming in 1998 (the last time old works automatically entered the public domain in the US), better known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. It's been 21 years of nothing, and that's been quite sad. But this year is different. Thanks to public interest in copyright and people getting increasingly angry about our locked up culture, Hollywood didn't even make a serious attempt to extend copyrights again (to be fair, they put out some feelers, and when they realized it would be a total disaster, they let it go).

So this year, we've been seeing tons of celebratory articles, highlighting how works from 1923 are finally entering the public domain (WAY later than they should have, but not much we can do about that now). So, it's time to celebrate. And what good is a public domain if you don't do anything with it? So, today, now that these works are in the public domain, we're announcing the Gaming Like It's 1923 Newly Public Domain Game Jam. We've teamed up, once again, with Randy Lubin from Diegetic Games, who was our partner on the (public domain) CIA: Collect It All card game, to run this game jam.

If the idea of a game jam is new to you, it's pretty simple: it's just a month-long contest for you to create games: these can be video games, board games, card games, RPGs, interactive fiction, etc. The one key requirement: it must use something from 1923 that has just entered the public domain. Those works are free for anyone to use, and we should celebrate that by actually making use of them to do something fun. So go create a game and submit it. There are some more details on the rules/restrictions and some pointers on the game jam page. Go make Sonny Bono proud (despite the fact that he believed that, contrary to the Constitution, copyright should last forever). We're offering up copies of our CIA game and some of our copyright-related t-shirts as prizes.

If you need some source material for inspiration, Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain already has a nice page of highlights of newly public domain material, as well as a nice spreadsheet with even more works. Also, there have been a ton of news articles in the lead up to this first US public domain day in twenty-one years, that might also get you thinking. Here's ones from the Smithsonian, the NY Times, BoingBoing, NPR, Quartz, Motherboard, The Stranger and Slate, so start hunting around for great cultural works to build on...

We've already put together an all-star cast of judges, mixing folks from both the worlds of gaming and copyright/public domain, including folks like Cory Doctorow, Whitney "Strix" Beltran, Dan Bull, Rebecca Tushnet, Nicky Case, Mark Lemley, Daphne Keller, Jason Scott, Jason Morningstar, J Li, Eric Goldman, Carolyn Homer, Albert Kong and we'll likely be naming a few more judges over the course of the month. Stay tuned.

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