Public Domain Day

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Public Domain Day
A logo of the 2023 Public Domain Day
Official nameInternational Public Domain Day
Also calledPDD
DateJanuary 1
Next timeJanuary 1, 2024 (2024-01-01)

Public Domain Day (PDD) is an observance of when copyrights expire and works enter into the public domain.[1] This legal transition of copyright works into the public domain usually happens every year on January 1 based on the individual copyright laws of each country.[1]

The observance of a "Public Domain Day" was initially informal; the earliest known mention was in 2004 by Wallace McLean (a Canadian public domain activist),[2] with support for the idea echoed by Lawrence Lessig.[3] Several websites list the authors whose works are entering the public domain each January 1. There are activities in countries around the world by various organizations all under the banner Public Domain Day.

Public domain[edit]

A public domain photo from a public domain celebration in 2016 (Brussels, Felix Reda speaking)

Copyright protection terms are typically described as expiring a number of years after the end of the calendar year when the author died (post mortem auctoris or pma).[4][5] Durations vary by country; in many jurisdictions, including the US and European Union, copyright usually lasts 70 years pma.[6][5] In such countries, the works of authors who died in 1953 will pass into the public domain on January 1, 2024. These works become fully available so that anyone can access and use them for any purpose, without authorization.[5]

Since public domain rights vary based on jurisdiction, the passage of a work into the public domain is not worldwide.[7] In the United States, no additional published works entered the public domain automatically from 1999 to 2018.[7][8] Australia's copyright scheme is even more restrictive, with no additional public domain entrances until 2026.[9] Each year, most European countries see various works passing into the public domain, as do Canada and New Zealand.[3][5][7]

Public Domain Day in 2010 celebrated the entry to the public domain in many countries of the works of authors such as Sigmund Freud, William Butler Yeats, Ford Madox Ford and Arthur Rackham.[1] In 2011, it celebrated the public domain status of Isaac Babel, Walter Benjamin, John Buchan, Mikhail Bulgakov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Emma Goldman, Paul Klee, Selma Lagerlöf, Leon Trotsky, Vito Volterra, Nathanael West, and others.[10]

Significant materials entering the public domain in 2021 included: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, Franz Kafka's The Trial, and the jazz standard "Sweet Georgia Brown".[11]


Public Domain Day celebration in Poland (2008)
Public Domain Day 2020 celebration in Indonesia

There is no explicit time when Public Domain Day began being observed (it was mentioned by Lawrence Lessig in 2004[3]), but in recent years it has been mentioned by Project Gutenberg[12] and has been promoted by Creative Commons.[13] Public Domain Day events have been hosted on various dates in Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Israel.[14][15]

In January 2011, to celebrate Public Domain Day 2011, Open Knowledge Foundation launched The Public Domain Review, a web-based review of works which have entered the public domain.[16][17]

In January 2012, a celebration was announced in Warsaw, Poland[18] and for the first time in Kraków[19]), where for several years on that day various activities have been organized by free culture NGOs (such as Koalicja Otwartej Edukacji and Open Society Institute) and other supporters.[20][21] Other 2012 events announced worldwide:[22]

  • Switzerland: Public Domain Jam, Zurich
  • Israel: PD Day Celebration at Haifa University, Haifa
  • North Macedonia: Events and promotional activities on the Public Domain
  • Italy:
    • La giornata del Pubblico Dominio, Turin
    • Festeggiamo il Giorno del Pubblico Dominio, Rome
    • Celebriamo il Giorno del Pubblico Dominio e la Cultura Libera, Grosseto
  • France: Journée du domaine public, Paris

In later years, Public Domain Day events have been organized by Communia, which also maintained the (now defunct) website.[citation needed]


Public Domain Day in 2019 was significant in the United States as it was the first year to have any meaningful copyright expirations there since the event's establishment: a 20-year freeze had been imposed in 1998 with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.[23] Several activities were carried to celebrate the event, including a special section at the MIT Libraries for public domain works[24] and the "Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain"[25] that took place at the Internet Archive with the presence of members of Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation, among other scholars like Pam Samuelson, Lawrence Lessig and James Boyle.[citation needed]


In 2022 in the United States, in addition to works published in 1926 that had had their copyright renewed, about 400,000 sound recordings from before 1923 also passed into the public domain under the CLASSICS Act.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Richmond, Shane (January 1, 2010). "Happy Public Domain Day! Here's to many more – Telegraph Blogs". Archived from the original on January 5, 2010. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  2. ^ Happy Public Domain Day! Archived June 3, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, Wallace J.McLean, January 1, 2004.
  3. ^ a b c Lessig, Lawrence (January 1, 2004). "public domain day – in Canada (Lessig Blog)". Archived from the original on July 1, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  4. ^ "Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988: Section 12",, The National Archives, November 15, 1988, 1988 c. 48 (s. 12), Copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies ...
  5. ^ a b c d "About | Public Domain Day – 1 January 2012". Public Domain Day. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  6. ^ Hirtle, Peter B. "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c "Public Domain Day". Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  8. ^ Anderson, Nate (January 4, 2010). "Nothing to celebrate on Public Domain Day 2010 in the US". Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  9. ^ "Project Gutenberg Australia Newsletter February 2009". Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  10. ^ "Authors entering the Public Domain in 2011 | Public Domain Day – 1 January 2012". Public Domain Day. Archived from the original on December 22, 2011. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  11. ^ "Public Domain Day 2021". Duke University School of Law.
  12. ^ "January 1, 2011 is going to be Public Domain Day – Project Gutenberg News". September 24, 2011. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  13. ^ "Public Domain Day". Creative Commons. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  14. ^ Carlos, Juan (December 12, 2011). "Public Domain Day 2012 | International Communia Association". Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  15. ^ "PD Day Celebration at Haifa University". Haifa Center for Law and Technology, Haifa University. May 1, 2011. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  16. ^ "Launch of the Public Domain Review to celebrate Public Domain Day 2011", Open Knowledge Foundation blog, January 1, 2011.
  17. ^ Wesner, Samantha. "The Public Domain Review". The Public Domain Review.
  18. ^ "Jak świętowaliśmy Dzień Domeny Publicznej 2012 | Domena Publiczna".
  19. ^ "Obchody Dnia Domeny Publicznej w Krakowie | Domena Publiczna".
  20. ^ "Report from Public Domain Day 2011 in Poland | Dzień Domeny Publicznej 2012" (in Polish). December 31, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  21. ^ "Dzień Domeny Publicznej 2012 | uwalniamy artefakty kultury!" (in Polish). Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  22. ^ "P.D. Day 2012 Celebrations". COMMUNIA. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  23. ^ Holmes, Helen (December 31, 2018). "2019 Will Gift Us With a Huge Release of Copyrighted Works Entering the Public Domain". Observer. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  24. ^ "MIT Libraries". Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  25. ^ Bailey, Lila (December 5, 2018). "Join us for A Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain | Internet Archive Blogs". Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  26. ^ Jenkins, Jennifer. "Public Domain Day 2022". Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Duke University. Retrieved January 7, 2022.

External links[edit]