Originally Posted by pdurrant
It's because of the weird US copyright laws. Anything published before 1923 is out of copyright. Some things published from 1923 to 1963 are already out of copyright. But anything still in copyright has a copyright term of 95 years or more, so nothing that's currently copyright in the US will fall into the public domain until 1st January 2019. And then, everything published in 1923 become public domain.
This continues until 2073. On 1st January 2073, everything published in the US in 1977 falls into the public domain.
After after 2073, the US is pretty much on the life+70 rules.
Life+70 rules will cause some US works to fall into the public domain in the years 2048 onwards as well. In fact, on 1st January 2048, works by authors who died before 1978 but which were published in 1978 and later fall into the public domain.
This leads to a small anomaly. If an author died in (say) 1977, a book published in 1977 would be in copyright until 1st January 2073, but a book published posthumously in 1978 would fall out of copyright on 1st January 2048.
Of course, I very much expect that US copyright laws will change again before much of this comes to pass.
for more details.
It still amazes me that our politicians, in the name of making things easier, can screw them up and make them incomprehensible. Or was this deliberate and helped put more money in their pockets? You decide.