Pictured above is our top pick of artists and writers whose works will, on 1st January 2019, enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Of the eleven featured, six 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 five 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 1948 and 1968 respectively. As always it’s a motley crew assembled for our graduation photo, including a major figure of the European avant-garde, two of the most important figures in the history of film, the urinal-loving father of conceptual art, and three key figures in social justice movements.
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 2019 in countries with life plus 50 and 70 years copyright terms then see the Wikipedia pages on 1948 and 1968 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 years the United States has seen precisely nothing enter the public domain due to copyright expiration (apart from some unpublished works). However, this time around all that changes!. For the first time in more than twenty years, on the 1st January, published works will enter the US public domain. This will be all works — be it books, films, artworks, or musical scores — published in the year 1923. Exactly why this is suddenly the case is a complicated affair, but basically revolves around a series of unfortunate legal proceedings – essentially the fault of Mickey Mouse (or at least his creators) – which saw extensions to previous copyright terms. But now these extensions are expiring and so each coming year will see the works of 95 years ago added to the US public domain — so on 1st January 2019 the works from 1923, in 2020 those from 1924, in 2021 those from 1925 and so on and so on (until 2073). A massive and very welcome expansion of the US public domain! Below are some highlights that'll enter on 1st January 2019.
For a great further reading on this new expansion to the US public domain checkout this article in the Smithsonian, this in the Atlantic, and this in the New York Times. And for those in California, the Internet Archive and Creative Commons are holding a special event on January 25th at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco.