Out with the old, in with the new. This is probably the most overused phrase at the beginning of each year. People all over the world rejoice for being fortunate to witness the commencement of the New Year. But there’s more to celebrate. It’s known by few and a mystery to most. Introducing, the Public Domain Day. Let’s have a look at why this day is a blessing to readers and fans of art and entertainment.
What is a Public Domain Day?
The term “public domain” refers to works that are not protected by copyright laws. It, therefore, means that the public is free to use these works without any legal repercussions, but no one can ever own it.
A public domain day is when copyrights expire, and works enter into the public domain. This legal transition happens on the 1st of January every year with the earliest known mention happening in 2004. Under the copyrights protection terms, there is a limit on the number of years after the death of an author when the work is made available to the public without the need for prior authorization. In most jurisdictions, this number is 70 years post death.
The Public Domain Day of 2019 was especially a significant one in the United States as it hasn’t happened for over 20 years. This is because when works from 1923 were about to enter the public domain in 1999, Congress pushed the copyright length another 20 years. This means that in January 1st 2019, an extensive list of hits and obscurities from 1923 including literature, movies, and music were made available to the public. Anyone can download or recreate them for free without any legal restrictions. In 2020, it will be the turn of 1924 productions and so on. Are you a fan of anything comic? You’ll now be able to download them from the best comic torrent sites of 2019 for free, republish to sell, or use in the classroom. You name it – profit, non-profit, the sky is the limit.
How Does Artwork Pass into The Public Domain?
There are four common ways in which works make it to the public domain:
Ideally, copyright protection laws expire at the end of the year set, that is, December 31st. With this expiration, the works don’t require any permission before being added to the public domain. The rules apply regardless of the number of authors who created a single work.
2.Failure of the Owner to Follow Copyright Renewal Rules
A large number of works published after 1922 but before 1964 can be found in the public domain since the authors failed to file a renewal with the Copyright Office after the 28th year of publication. At this time, no renewal meant no copyright. It is recommended to first confirm if a book published during this time had its copyright renewed before recreating or republishing it.
While sampling a work, you might come across words like “Dedicated to the public domain”. This says that it’s free for use. This happens when an author deliberately chooses not to copyright his work.
4.Copyright Law Doesn’t Support this Work
Some things aren’t protected by copyright law. This includes titles, facts, ideas, theories and commonly used phrases like “What a day”. However, if an expression is used as a slogan in an advertisement, you can’t use the same for monetary gain.
Famous Books that made it to 2019’s Public Domain Day
At the stroke of midnight, classics such as “A Lost Lady” by Willa Cather and “Whose Body?” the first Lord Peter Wimsey novel by Dorothy L. Sayers were added to the public domain. It is impossible to exhaust the number of 1923 books found in this domain. Here’s a taste of what’s newly available:
The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
The World Crisis by Winston Churchill
A Son at The Front by Edith Wharton
The Complete Works of Anthony Trollope.
Other short stories by legendary authors like H.P Lovecraft, and Ernest Hemingway.
It is essential to understand that even though each work in the public domain belongs to the public, a collection of public domain works may be protected by copyright laws. For example, a group of images in a book may be protected even though individual images aren’t. It implies that you are free to use the individual images but copying the entire collection could lead to collective works copyright infringement.
A public domain day is a good thing from any perspective including that of authors, publishers, teachers, and the public in general. While most celebrate New Year’s by watching a display of fireworks or singing their lungs out, how about being unique by enjoying productions that made it to the public domain. There’s no better way to welcome the New Year!