International Public Domain Day

International Public Domain Day

International Public Domain Day is celebrated on January 1 every year to shed some light on the copyright laws in the U.S., and what happens when they end. The answer is that copyrighted items become part of the public domain. This means that the works of numerous artists, including writers, photographers, and musicians, can then be used or rewritten for numerous information sites, and yes, the permission of the artist is no longer needed! Observe the day by finding out what will become a part of the public domain this year.


Copyright protection terms trademark the work of an individual. However, according to the law, if a copyright is not renewed, or if the author of the creation has been dead for a certain number of years, the work becomes part of the public domain. While the duration of the law is 70 years in the U.S., each country may have its own set of rules. Hence, 70 years after the death of an author, his work becomes public domain, fully accessible to everyone. It is to celebrate this free access that International Public Domain Day is celebrated each year.

The origin of the day is unclear, however, Wallace McLean was one of the first to mention the holiday in the year 2004. He is a Canadian public domain activist. Public domain availability is such a big deal that several websites research and provide a list of the works that will be available yearly.

To celebrate Public Domain Day 2011, the Open Knowledge Foundation launched “The Public Domain Review,” a website that reviews various works which have entered the public domain. Due to the U.S. copyright laws, Americans have so far received access to some great literary works such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” Ernest Hemingway’s “In Our Time,” Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” and the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

International Public Domain Day
International Public Domain Day


The First Step

The Copyright Act of 1790 is formed.

An Update

The Copyright Act is revised and extended to 28 years.

Going Digital

Congress amends the Copyright Act to prohibit commercial lending of computer software.

Fun For All

All works first published or released before January 1, 1926, lose their copyright protection.

International Public Domain Day
International Public Domain Day


Is Tarzan public domain?

The first ten books in Edgar’s “Tarzan” series are currently in the global public domain. The remaining 14 books in the series which he published between 1912 and 1966, are still under copyright in the United States.

How long until songs are in the public domain?

Songs enter the public domain 50 to 75 years after the death of the last surviving creator (writer, composer, etc.). Different countries have different copyright protection tenures.

Is Doris Day public domain?

A popular publicity photo of American singer and actress Doris Day is in the public domain. The film still from the “Love Me or Leave Me” trailer, whose photographer remains unknown, was published in the U.S. in 1957.


  1. Do some research

    There are so many books, research, movies, etc., that will be in the public domain this year. Find out which ones and enjoy the new knowledge.

  2. Spread the knowledge

    Copyrights and the public domain are areas that may be confusing for some. Use this day to spread knowledge about their laws.

  3. Write an article

    Write a fun blog post about the movies, songs, and shows, that will be in the public domain in the next few years. Share your article on LinkedIn, or Medium, or submit it to print and digital newspapers.


  1. Dr. Seuss’s work in the public domain

    Since he died in 1990, his works will enter the public domain in 2085.

  2. Works by agencies or certain governments

    Such content is in the public domain from the time of its creation.

  3. Plays and infringement

    The use of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a copyright infringement.

  4. Happy Birthday to You and copyright laws

    The song entered the public domain only recently even though the melody was composed in 1893 and the words were written in 1912.

  5. Video games entering the public domain

    The first commercial non-arcade video games will enter the U.S. public domain in 2073.

International Public Domain Day
International Public Domain Day


  1. It makes important work public

    It celebrates the important works of art and literature that have been made public over time. The holiday reminds us to look forward to the ones to come.

  2. Annual introductions to the public domain

    We are made aware of all the books and movies that will soon be part of the public domain. This gives us the knowledge we need to access materials we love for free.

  3. It celebrates the spread of knowledge

    The day celebrates the spread of knowledge and information. It represents another means by which knowledge is made accessible to a much wider population.

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