Copyright is the law that protects artists from other people copying their work. Copyrighted work includes books, music, movies, pictures, and other forms of expression.
Every work of art is automatically copyrighted to the author. Under current law in the United States, copyright lasts 70 years beyond the death of the author. After the copyright expires, the work enters the public domain. Works in the public domain can be freely copied and used by anyone for any purpose.
Due to lobbying by Disney over the years, no American copyrighted works will enter the public domain in 2018. In fact, no works copyrighted in the United States will enter the public domain under normal circumstances until at least 2019.
Luckily, every country has its own copyright laws. Most are not as strict as those in the United States.
Some notable works (from outside the United States) that lost their copyright and entered the public domain last year were:
- Happy Birthday to You, song by Patty Hill
- A Treatise on Money, by John Maynard Keynes
- The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
- The Horatio Hornblower series, by C.S. Forester
- The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
- A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh
- Ziegfeld Follies, Broadway productions by Harry von Tilzer
One thing to note is that translations might still be under copyright as a new work. Similarly, if something had been “remastered,” it might still be under copyright. Sometimes a book publisher may put a foreword or interpretation notes into a book. The added content is under a new copyright. If a musician may record a new rendition of a musical piece, the recording is under a new copyright.
Disclosure: Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links