Happy Public Domain Day! Pictured above is our top pick of artists and writers whose works, on 1st January 2020, enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Of the eleven featured, seven will be entering the public domain in countries with a “life plus 70 years” copyright term (e.g. most European Union members, Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, etc.) and four in countries with a “life plus 50 years” copyright term (e.g. Canada, New Zealand, and many countries in Asia and Africa) — those that died in the year 1949 and 1969 respectively. As always it’s a motley crew assembled for our graduation photo, including one of the most famous American writers of the 1950s and 60s, a key figure of the Frankfurt School, a charismatic spiritual teacher, the so-called Nightingale of India, and the "King of the Twelve-String Guitar".
Learn more about each of them by clicking on their names beneath the picture which will take you through to each of their Wikipedia pages. And for more names of those whose works will be going into the public domain in 2020 in countries with life plus 50 and 70 years copyright terms then see the Wikipedia pages on 1949 and 1969 deaths (which you can fine-tune down to writers and artists), and also this dedicated page.
Unlike other countries the United States does not deem a work to be in the public domain according to who created it (i.e. worked out by the death date of its creator), but rather when it was published. As some of you may be aware, in previous to 2019 the United States had seen precisely nothing enter the public domain due to copyright expiration (apart from some unpublished works). However, 2019 saw all that change, and on 1st January 2020 we see the second batch of works enter the public domain in the US — all books, films, artworks, or musical scores published in the year 1924. Below are some highlights...
- The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- The Man in the Brown Suit and Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
- A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
- The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg) by Thomas Mann
- Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
- Hotel Savoy and Rebellion by Joseph Roth
- The Dream by H. G. Wells
- The Old Maid by Edith Wharton
- The Life of Edward II of England (Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England) by Bertolt Brecht
- The Fatal Eggs (Роковые яйца) by Mikhail Bulgakov
- Hay Fever by Noël Coward
- The Rat by Ivor Novello
- When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne
- Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada) by Pablo Neruda
- The Art of the Theatre by Sarah Bernhardt
- The Gift of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
- My Further Disillusionment in Russia by Emma Goldman
- Literature and Revolution by Leon Trotsky
- The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain
- The Story of a Great Schoolmaster by H. G. Wells
- America directed by D. W. Griffith
- The City Without Jews (Die Stadt ohne Juden) by Hans Karl Breslauer
- Girl Shy and Hot Water, starring Harold Lloyd
- Greed directed by Erich von Stroheim
- The Navigator and Sherlock, Jr. starring Buster Keaton
- The Thief of Bagdad directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Douglas Fairbanks
This post was updated on February 5th to remove the section about new artworks entering the public domain in the US. We'd included this based on a misunderstanding about what US copyright laws meant by "published" — apologies for any inconvenience caused. A reminder that nothing on this website is to be taken as legal advice! Laws around copyright are extremely complicated, particularly in the US.