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New Year’s Day marks end of copyright terms around the world



Alli Pyrah, New York


The work of creators including Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter and classical composer Sergei Rachmaninoff will enter the public domain on New Year’s Day in countries including Brazil, Russia and most of the EU

In countries with a life-plus-70-years copyright term, works by creators who died in 1943 will enter the public domain on January 1 2014.

Creators whose work will enter the public domain on New Year’s Day for those countries include jazz artist Fats Waller, French expressionist painter Chaïm Soutine and Kostis Palamas, a Greek poet who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn.

For countries with a life-plus-50 copyright term, the work of creators including authors CS Lewis, Sylvia Plath and Aldous Huxley will enter the public domain in 2014.

New Year’s Day has been declared Public Domain Day by a group of organisations working to promote the public domain, including Communia and the European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain, with support from the Open Knowledge Foundation.

As a result of extensions to the copyright term, no material has entered the public domain in the US as the result of copyright term expirations since 1970. Some works, however, have entered the public domain in other ways, such as through Creative Commons licences.

The next mass migration of works into the public domain in the US will occur in 2019, if the country does not further extend the copyright term before then.

US Congress launched a review of the Copyright Act this year after being urged to do so by Maria Pallante, the register of copyrights at the US Copyright Office. Pallante called for review in a speech in March before the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Committee on the Judiciary.

One of the aims of the review is to consider ways to update US copyright law for the digital age. The last major revision of the 1976 Copyright Act was in 1998 with enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which created notice-and-takedown rules for infringing material online, and a 20-year increase to the US copyright term in the Copyright Term Extension Act.


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