Works by Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, and numerous other artists are entering the public domain this year as a major trove of copyrights expired in the US on January 1. It’s the first time in 21 years that there’s been a mass expiration of this kind, which pertains to thousands of works of art, design, film, and literature published in 1923.
The last time this happened was in 1998, when works from 1922 entered the public domain. The following year, works published in 1923 were scheduled to follow suit, but lobbyists for major entertainment corporations convinced congress to pass the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, adding an additional 20 years to the expiration date of the next crop of intellectual property copyrights, effectively keeping works from that year under copyright until now.
“We have shortchanged a generation,” Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, told Smithsonian magazine. “The 20th century is largely missing from the internet.”
If things stay as they are and congress doesn’t pass another extension, scores of new works will become part of the public domain every year, giving anyone the freedom to use, republish, or adapt them. Significant works set to enter the public domain in the next couple of years include George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (2020), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (2021), and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (2022). In 2024, Micky Mouse’s copyright expires, followed by the rest of the Looney Tunes between 2031 and 2035.
The recent expiration also applies to a number of significant works of poetry, including Robert Frost’s famous “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies.
See images of some of the newly freed works below.
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