While we all celebrate January 1st as the start of a new year full of new possibilities, there is another reason that fans of open access information in the United States commemorate every January 1st. This is because January 1st is when new works enter the public domain for the year. Despite what it might sound like, the public domain is not a place. Instead, according to the U.S. government copyright office, works that are in the public domain are “no longer under copyright protection” and “may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.” Currently, U.S. copyright law states that materials published between 1923-1977 remain under copyright for 95 years from their publication date. What this means for Winnie-The-Pooh is that now creators will be able to take the beloved characters from that children’s story and write their own stories or create their own media without having to get permission from a copyright holder.
Interested in learning more about what works will be entering the public domain this year? The Public Domain Review website has put together a new feature where they showcase a work set to enter the public domain each day throughout December. Other well-known works highlighted on their website include Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and books by authors such as D. H. Lawrence, Baroness Orczy, Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, and Agatha Christie.
This year there is also something special happening with music and sound recordings. All recordings published in the U.S. before 1923 will enter the public domain in January. These works were not available before now because sound recordings before the 1970s were protected by state laws, which held that the words were copyrighted indefinitely. The Music Modernization Act of 2018 made it possible for these works to enter the public domain. Check out these sound recordings on the Library of Congress’s Citizen DJ website, and use them without permission however you like starting on January 1st.
To learn more about copyright and fair use issues, please visit the Thomas Jefferson University Libraries copyright guide.