Public Domain Day

Observed on the 1st day of January every year, Public Domain Day is an observance of when copyrights expire and works first enter into the public domain. Copyright protections vary from one country to another, but many copyrights in the U.S. and Europe last for 70 years after the death of the creator.

This gives artists enough time to profit from their labors, but not so long that it stifles creativity in popular culture. The public domain is important because it allows new artists to adapt old works and make them new again. Creators draw on previous works to refresh art every generation, and that’s why the public domain is so important to all of us.

The History of Public Domain Day

Even though no one really knows when Public Domain Day was first created, the earliest mention of it can be found in 2004 by Wallace McLean, a Canadian activist for the public domain.

In 2011, the Open Knowledge Foundation launched The Public Domain Review, which tells about works that have entered the public domain. This holiday continues to be at the forefront of such conversations. This holiday is also known as International Public Domain Day as it’s observed all over the world.

Myths About the Public Domain

We wanted to provide our readers with additional information on copyright law and the existence of the public domain, but we wanted to do it in a way that was easily digestible to people who might not have a degree in copyright law.

That’s why we decided to list some of the most common myths that people believe about the public domain that aren’t true. Let’s take a look at these myths below.

  • Myth: If a work is well-known, it’s in the public domain.
  • Myth: Everything on the Internet is in the public domain.
  • Myth: If it doesn’t have a copyright notice on it, it’s in the public domain.
  • Myth: If a work has a copyright notice, it’s not in the public domain.
  • Myth: A new copyright can be established by republishing or repackaging a work in the public domain.
  • Myth: Posting a movie to a video site puts it in the public domain.

Observing Public Domain Day

On this day, people can spend some time learning more about copyright law or doing some research on which works are currently in the public domain.

We do advise that people searching for public domain materials keep in mind that copyright law can sometimes be a bit murky, so works that seem like they should be in the public domain actually aren’t, and works that seem like they shouldn’t be in the public domain are.

People can also spread the word about this holiday and their favorite public domain works using the hashtag #PublicDomainDay on social media.

When is it?
This year (2024)
January 1 Monday
Next year (2025)
January 1 Wednesday
Last year (2023)
January 1 Sunday
Art & Entertainment, Education & Reading