Happy Public Domain Day!


Each January 1, thousands of works are released into the public domain. This year, the Public Domain Review honors the “Class of 2014” (seen above):

As usual it’s an eclectic bunch who have assembled for our graduation photo – including two very different geniuses of the piano, a French mystic, the creator of Peter Rabbit, one of the 20th century’s most important inventors, a poet who penned the Olympic Hymn, and a man known as the “Black Leonardo” who pretty much single-handedly created the peanut industry. The unifying factor bringing them all together is that all died in the year of 1943, and so their works, in many places, will be given a new lease of life as they pass into the public domain.

But instead of celebrating, some are mourning what would have entered the public domain today, had we retained copyright laws from 1976. Duke University has assembled a list of such works, including Keroauc’s On the Road, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and Dr. Suess’s The Cat in the Hat. Citing Duke’s list, Adi Robertson zooms out:

The arguably bigger problem … involves books, films, and music that most people have never heard of, and that copyright holders aren’t going to bother preserving or reissuing — without a meaningful public domain, they can’t be archived in a way that makes them available to more than a privileged few.

(Image from The Public Domain Review. Top Row (left to right): George Washington Carver; Sergei Rachmaninoff; Shaul Tchernichovsky; Middle Row (left to right): Sophie Taeuber-Arp; Nikola Tesla; Kostis Palamas; Max Wertheimer; Bottom Row (left to right): Simone Weil; Chaim Soutine; Fats Waller; Beatrix Potter.)