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Archive for December, 2009

Crazy About Puzzles

I like puzzles…always have. Not the jigsaw puzzles where you have a bunch of tiny pieces that, once assembled, reveal an image of some sort. No…I like wire puzzles and cast puzzles…3D puzzles, usually made from metal that challenge you to figure out how to take them apart, and then put them back together again…kind of like Humpty Dumpty, except without the mess. There is something about working with those puzzles that just make me happy…they help me think spatially, boost my creativity and challenge me to think outside the box. Finding puzzles that really challenge me, however, seems to be more of a challenge than the puzzles themselves. Most level 6 puzzles (the most difficult) usually take me less than 15 minutes to disassemble and re-assemble again. Here are a few of the cast puzzles I played with over the Holidays (these are from Hanayama).


After solving the puzzles above, I was reading the accompanying literature when the following sentence caught my attention:

“At the end of the 19th century, Britain experienced a huge puzzle craze. I managed to pick up a number of the puzzles famous during that period in flea markets, despite their rarity.”

Now, I don’t know what that sentence says to your brain, but to mine it said, “Public Domain” loud and clear! And so I was off and running to research old puzzles. Seeing how they were crafted metal objects, my first thought was to look for patents. After all, designs of physical objects would be covered by patent rather than copyright. While it took me a while to find what I was looking for (you would think “puzzle” would be a good keyword to start with…it wasn’t), I did eventually begin to uncover the goodies. A few examples are included below.

enigma_PUZZLE_DEVICE-1One of the cool advantages, of course, to finding these puzzle patents is that they describe how to solve the puzzle! Not that I would cheat…takes all the fun out of solving them…but good to know, nonetheless. Also, because most patents before 1995 are now in the Public Domain (the average patent term is 14 years and cannot be renewed as-is), you can use the information in them to create your own versions of the puzzles, if you chose to do so. That’s why you see so many variants of the Rubik’s Cube now…the original patent has expired, providing the opportunity for others to create something similar or better! Gotta love free enterprise!

Wire_puzzle-2Essentially, that’s what Hanayama did after finding the old British puzzles…he recreated them with a touch of his own creativity to re-introduce the puzzles to a new generation of puzzle lovers. And, after all…isn’t THAT what the Public Domain is all about?! You BET!

At Sea With the Public Domain

I recently took my first cruise…8 days in the Caribbean aboard the Carnival Miracle. I was a VIP as a part of my good friend, Jim Edwards’, JimBoat Cruise. We had a blast! While this was meant to be part vacation and part workshop (I taught on the Public Domain as a content source for membership sites), I really wasn’t planning to give much thought to the Public Domain, other than for my presentation. Fate had other plans. What I would soon discover once I stepped onto the Carnival Miracle was that the entire design of the ship’s interior was based on or made use of design elements and characters from the Public Domain. I later discovered that the man responsible for this clever use of the Public Domain was Joe Farcus, ship architect and creator of Carnival Miracle’s interior design.


Mr. Farcus, who is obviously a huge fan of history and all forms of entertainment, hit upon one of the perfect solutions offered by using Public Domain-based content…zero royalties combined with the draw of nostalgia…an interior designer’s dream! Inspired by characters from novels, songs, poems, myths, movies, plays, and much more, Mr. Farcus designed Carnival Miracle’s many public rooms and spaces so that the ship reveals herself like a novel, with surprising plot twists and small details that add up to a masterpiece. This “novel” look includes some of my favorite uses of the Public Domain on-ship: 18 original paintings of legendary fictional characters, including the Phantom of the Opera, Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe and Captain Ahab, which were created by Italian artist Augusto Vignali.


As you can imagine, I spent most of my time on-ship with a smile on my face, marveling at the images and characters that surrounded us…from Alice and the White Rabbit in the Mad Hatter’s Lounge to massive murals of Mary Cassatt paintings in one of the open areas. I was in my glory. Even my favorite character, Sherlock Holmes, was present and accounted for.

I think what excited me the most about this grand discovery was that Carnival’s draw from the Public Domain once again emphasized my point that ANYTHING is possible with Public Domain content. It’s proven, its supply is nearly limitless, and covers nearly any genre and media type. So as we head into the new year of 2010, you can count on my ongoing challenge to your creative juices…to encourage you into seriously incorporating the proven content of the Public Domain into your business. And I am convinced that even more compelling uses of the Public Domain will emerge in this New Year…perhaps even by you!

Jesus, Santa and Sherlock…Oh My!

You might have already figured this out about me, but in case you haven’t yet…here is a big revelation…I’m weird in a good, but sometimes obsessive kind of way…grin. It’s Christmas Day and I’m sitting in the Living Room relaxing waiting for Susan’s children to arrive. Susan is in the kitchen making a yummy squash and cranberry pie, music is playing in the background, life is good. I was sitting here thinking about the great time we had last night with my family and girls and, BAM, this statement pops into my head, “Jesus is in the Public Domain!” That’s all I needed to hear…my curious mind hit the ground running.

“That’s right…he is…Jesus IS in the Public Domain…funny…never thought about it before.” I guess it’s a good thing too…without the Public Domain, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same. You figure, Jesus, Mary and all the Bible crew are in the Public Domain…if they weren’t you would have to pay royalties to someone to use them in your stories, decorations and more…whew…good thing no one figured out how to capitalize on that one. But actually, I guess they did because any of us, or ALL of us, have the right to create products using Jesus as the central theme…solely because he is indeed in the Public Domain.

And let’s not forget Santa Claus…good ‘ole St. Nick! He’s in the Public Domain too! So is Jack Frost, snowmen and toy soldiers! So I guess you could say that the Public Domain is responsible for the commercialization of Christmas…thank God! (who is also in the Public Domain, BTW).

So why am I writing about this…on Christmas of all days? To make a point. The Public Domain is FULL of characters you can use to create all types of products and derivative works, and certain segments of corporate America (and other countries) “get it”…do you? Today marks the release of a new movie I really want to see…” Sherlock Holmes.” His character is in the Public Domain so Hollywood (or anyone else) can do whatever they want with him.

As a matter of fact, speaking of Hollywood, there are a number of new movies coming out (or already out) using characters from the Public Domain…A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland…even New Moon (vampires and werewolfs are in the Public Domain). Even the cruise I recently took demonstrated the reach of the Public Domain…the entire ship (Carnival Miracle) was decorated with Public Domain characters and images (watch for a separate post on that).

As I sat thinking about popular characters that are in the Public Domain, I began a list and soon realized that there were a LOT of characters out there. Here are a few of the gang I wrote down:

  • Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the whole Bible full of characters…and let’s not forget Buddha…he’s in the Public Domain too!
  • Scary Creatures and monsters like vampires, werewolfs, zombies, dragons, mummies and witches (and more).
  • Mythological characters like Zeus, Pegasus, Medusa and Hercules.
  • And then there are aliens (little green men and grays), robots, pirates and genies.
  • Oh and let’s not forget many of the nursery rhyme characters, characters from oral traditions (like White Buffalo Woman from the Lakota).
  • And the list goes on and on. It’s likely you are thinking of tons more characters even now.

These Public Domain characters originate from a wide variety of sources…I’ve already alluded to some of them…religious writings, oral traditions, books and stories, movies and radio shows, comic books, paintings and illustrations, patents and more. And of course, when it comes to creating derivative works using characters…well…the sky is the limit, from movies and books to t-shirt designs and toys…and any and all variations thereof!

So when you are brainstorming your next products…think about characters from the Public Domain. How can you use THEM to help build your business? They are a goldmine just waiting for you to grab your share of the booty. I guess the bigger question is, will you?

Happy Holidays!

Zombies, Ninjas and the Public Domain

As someone who is passionate about and a spokesperson for the Public Domain, I am always on the lookout for new, inventive ways to use the proven content of the Public Domain. And I am constantly amazed by the creative brilliance of those who demonstrate, time and again, that the Public Domain remains the single greatest source of content for all types of product creation.

Earlier this year, Quirk Books released, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” a mashup novel by Seth Grahame-Smith that combines Jane Austen’s classic 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice with elements of modern zombie fiction. When I first read about the book, I thought, “You have to be kidding me.” But then I realized just how brilliant the idea was…taking Public Domain texts and adding in other elements or characters from the Public Domain, like zombies and ninjas. Apparently a bunch of other folks thought the idea was brilliant too…the book made it to the New York Times Bestseller list and is also being produced in movie form by actress Natalie Portman. Building on this huge win, Quirk Books has also released Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, a spin on another of Jane Austen’s novels and has other mashups in the works as well!

Now let’s dissect this mashup approach a bit. According to Wikipedia, a mashup is “a digital media file containing any or all of text, graphics, audio, video, and animation, which recombines and modifies existing digital works to create a derivative work.” This is a classic definition for WHY you want to be using Public Domain content in your business…to create new, derivative works. We know that “Pride and Prejudice” is in the Public Domain because it was published in 1813. Zombie characters are also in the Public Domain, thanks in part to the cult classic zombie film, “Night of the Living Dead,” which is also in the Public Domain. While many characters, like Spiderman or Mickey Mouse, are not in the Public Domain, many more, like zombies, pirates, ninjas and more, are in the Public Domain.

So let me ask you…can you imagine the limitless product possibilities available to you just by mashing together elements from the Public Domain? Hopefully you are beginning to understand why I am convinced that the Public Domain is THE definitive source for proven content! Go have some fun!

Public Domain Toolbar Tour

I thought I would share a quick tour of some of the new features of the Public Domain Expert Toolbar 2.0. Enjoy!

Get the Toolbar 2.0 Now!

Public Domain Easy Button

I don’t know about you but I like doing things the easy way. That’s why I use templates to design my websites, distribution services to send my videos everywhere at once, social networks that allow me to post once and send my message to dozens of sites simultaneously and article services that blast my latest insights to hundreds of places.

Easy is ALSO why I created the Public Domain Toolbar. The idea of being able to find Public Domain content from my choice of hundreds of sites from one place without having to gallivant all over the internet just appealed to me. Apparently it appeals to a lot of other people too because the Toolbar has been installed hundreds of times since it was introduced back in 2007.

With Version 2.0 of the Toolbar, I increased the functionality even more with the introduction of “Image Search”, which gives you one-click access to tens of millions of images. Why is that a big deal? Simple. You are always going to need images for:

  • Products (physical and digital)
  • Website Design
  • Packaging
  • Video Creation
  • Scrapbooking
  • Graphics Design
  • And Much More…

And with Google including image results in their universal search feature, using images effective is now even a HOT traffic generation tool. I’ve landed on the front page of Google search results simply because of images. Of course, I don’t want to take away from the power of the Toolbar to locate books, government content, audio and video and MUCH more!

With Version 2.0 of the Toolbar, you have the proven content of the Public Domain at your fingertips…it truly is an “easy” button.  Get started right now by clicking the link below. Oh…and BTW…the link below will take you a limited-time discount offer…just in time for the Holidays!

I Want My OWN Easy Button