Are you an author, poet, or artist who has wondered what will happen to your work after pass on? You can protect your work now, but most creatives do not make those types of legal arrangements when they are alive for a multitude of reasons. Those who do not end up having their work enter the public domain. We attempt to explain it below using resources found online.
What is Public Domain? [Stanford University] ˅
The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.
What are the reasons why works enter the public domain?
There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:
- the copyright has expired
- the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
- the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as “dedication,” or
- copyright law does not protect this type of work.
There are multiple sites online that deal with copyright protection and public domain. To share how important the topic is, here is a list of works that enter the public domain as of January 1, 2020 and January, 1, 2021.
|Margaret Mitchell||United States||8 November 1900||16 August 1949||Novelist||Gone with the Wind|
|Oswald Garrison Villard||United States||13 March 1872||1 October 1949||Journalist, civil rights activist||John Brown 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower||United States||14 October 1890||28 March 1969||Military Officer, statesman||Crusade in Europe|
|Jack Kerouac||United States||12 March 1922||21 October 1969||Writer||On the Road|
|Edgar Rice Burroughs||United States||1 September 1875||19 March 1950||Author of adventure and science fiction||Tarzan and Barsoom|
As you can see, it doesn’t matter if a work is considered a classic or not to ultimately belong to the public. Check with an intellectual property attorney to see how your estate can continue to own your work beyond your death.