Happy Public Domain Day!

January 2nd, 2011
by jodi

Today, in many countries around the world, new works become public property: January 1st every year is Public Domain Day. Material in the public domain can be used, remixed and shared freely — without violating copyright and without asking permission.

However, in the United States, not a single new work entered the public domain today. Americans must wait 8 more years: Under United States copyright law, nothing more will be added to the public domain until January 1, 2019.

Until the 1970’s the maximum copyright term was 56 years. Under that law, Americans would have been able to truly celebrate Public Domain Day:

  1. All works published in 1954 would be entering the public domain today.
  2. up to 85% of all copyrighted works from 1982 would be entering the public domain today. (Copyright Office and Duke).

Instead, only works published before 1923 are conclusively in the public domain in the U.S. today. What about post-1923 publications? It’s complicated: in the United States1.

For more information on Public Domain Day and the United States, Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a series of useful pages.

  1. 609 pages worth of complicated []

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