Top Row (left to right): Mervyn Peake; Martin Luther King Jr.; Marcel Duchamp.
Middle Row (left to right): Kurt Schwitters; John Steinbeck; Helen Keller; Maria Olga de Moraes Sarmento da Silveira.
Bottom Row (left to right): Ruth Benedict; Sergei Eisenstein; Antonin Artaud; D. W. Griffith.
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.
And what about works entering the public domain in the United States?
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years the Unites States has seen precisely nothing enter the public domain due to copyright expiration (apart from some unpublished works).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.
- Men Like Gods by H. G. Wells
- “In the Orchard” ad “”Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street” by Virginia Woolf
- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
- The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud (original German version)
- Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier (original French version)
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
- The play Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw
- “Hypnos”, “What the Moon Brings”, “The Lurking Fear”, and “Memory” by H.P. Lovecraft
- Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (original German version)
- New Hampshire by Robert Frost
- Spring and All and also the novel The Great American Novel by William Carlos Williams
- Harmonium by Wallace Stevens
- Tulips and Chimneys by E.E. Cummings
- Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley
- A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
- Kangaroo by D. H. Lawrence.
- The Ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMille (not his 1956 version, but rather the earlier silent first attempt)
- Safety Last! and Why Worry? by Harold Lloyd
- The Pilgrim by Charlie Chaplin
- Our Hospitality by Buster Keaton
- The Little Napoleon by Georg Jacoby (which features debut of Marlene Dietrich)
- The White Rose directed by D.W. Griffith
- Robert Delaunay – Portrait of Tristan Tzara
- Marcel Duchamp – The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)
- Max Ernst – Pietà or Revolution by Night
- M. C. Escher – Dolphins
- George Grosz – Ecce Homo (portfolio of lithographs)
- Wassily Kandinsky – On White II
- Henri Matisse – Odalisque with Raised Arms and Window at Tangier
- Pablo Picasso – The Pipes of Pan and Paulo on a Donkey
- Man Ray – Object to Be Destroyed (destroyed 1957)
- Paul Klee – Architecture, Tightrope Walker, and Masks
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.
To learn more about Public Domain Day visit publicdomainday.org.
Wondering if “bad things happen to works when they enter the public domain”? Wonder no more.