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Copyright protection is great, but it's not forever. The length of any copyright will depend on the type of work, authorship, and renewals, but every copyright will expire completely at some point. And for works created in 1923, that point is now.
2019 begins the expiration of copyright protection for a multitude of works created 95 years ago, meaning we'll have another such release next year. So why are the works coming into the public domain, what are we getting, and what might we get in the coming years?
Under the Sonny Bono Copyright Act, the minimum standard for copyright duration for works created after 1978 is the length of the author's life plus 70 years. The Act, passed in 1998, also set time limits for other works, based on their date of creation:
That means that the 95-year protection for all those 1923 works expired on midnight, December 31, 2018.
So, what are we getting from the year 1923? Lifehacker put together a pretty comprehensive list, but here are a few highlights:
Sorry, no actual Disney stuff yet -- even though the movies were based on popular fairy tales that were in the public domain themselves, the actual Disney works will follow the same timeline for copyright expiration.
Once a work enters the public domain, anyone can re-publish them without asking permission or paying the copyright holders. That means you could print those books and show those old movies for profit, or give them away for free, and you can record new versions of those songs or chop them up and sample them as you please. The cool thing? You can even copyright your creations, or at least your own new additions to them.
Need help sorting this new and exciting copyright world out? Contact a local intellectual property attorney.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.