Way back in 1998 Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act extending US copyrights by 20 years to life-plus-70 for human authors and 95 years total for corporate authors. The extension was retrospective, so works in the public domain went back into copyright. This was a typical capitalist move to restrict public access to reasonably priced art and culture.
The purpose of the legislation was to wring extra profits from long dead creatives to boost corporate profits. This money grab also froze the US public domain for two decades, with no work re-entering our public domain until Jan 1 2018. On that day – the Grand Reopening of the Public Domain – marked the entry of the collected works of 1923 into the public domain.
Tomorrow, cultural treasures—along with lots of forgettable dreck—from 1925 will enter the public domain in the United States. Happily, each year, Duke University’s James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins document the works that are becoming available. Check out their link below for full lists and more information:
A tremendous highlight this year is arguably America’s most famous novel, The Great Gatsby. Here’s a taste of what will be in the public domain on January 1, 2021:
- John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer
- Alain Locke, The New Negro (collecting works from writers including W.E.B. du Bois, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Eric Walrond)
- Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
- Agatha Christie, The Secret of Chimneys
- Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves
- The Merry Widow
- Buster Keaton’s Go West
- Always, by Irving Berlin
- Sweet Georgia Brown, by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard & Kenneth Casey
- Works by ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton, including Shreveport Stomps and Milenberg Joys (with Paul Mares, Walter Melrose, & Leon Roppolo)
- Works by Duke Ellington, including Jig Walk and With You (both with Joseph “Jo” Trent)
- Works by ‘Fats’ Waller, including Anybody Here Want To Try My Cabbage (with Andrea “Andy” Razaf), Ball and Chain Blues (with Andrea “Andy” Razaf), and Campmeetin’ Stomp
- Works by Bessie Smith, the “Empress of the Blues,” including Dixie Flyer Blues, Tired of Voting Blues, and Telephone Blues
- Works by Sidney Bechet, including Waltz of Love (with Spencer Williams), Naggin’ at Me (with Rousseau Simmons), and Dreams of To-morrow
All these works and more will be available at Internet Archive tomorrow.