Smithsonian.com: “A beloved Robert Frost poem is among the many creations that are (finally) losing their protections in 2019…
“A beloved Robert Frost poem is among the many creations that are (finally) losing their protections in 2019”. “Whose woods these are, I think I”—whoa! We can’t quote any more of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” because it is still under copyright as this magazine goes to press. But come January 1, 2019, we, you, and everyone in America will be able to quote it at length on any platform.
At midnight on New Year’s Eve, all works first published in the United States in 1923 will enter the public domain. It has been 21 years since the last mass expiration of copyright in the U.S. That deluge of works includes not just “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which appeared first in the New Republic in 1923, but hundreds of thousands of books, musical compositions, paintings, poems, photographs and films. After January 1, any record label can issue a dubstep version of the 1923 hit “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” any middle school can produce Theodore Pratt’s stage adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and any historian can publish Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis with her own extensive annotations. Any artist can create and sell a feminist response to Marcel Duchamp’s seminal Dadaist piece, The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even) and any filmmaker can remake Cecil B. DeMille’s original The Ten Commandments and post it on YouTube.
“The public domain has been frozen in time for 20 years, and we’re reaching the 20-year thaw,” says Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. The release is unprecedented, and its impact on culture and creativity could be huge. We have never seen such a mass entry into the public domain in the digital age. The last one—in 1998, when 1922 slipped its copyright bond—predated Google. “We have shortchanged a generation,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “The 20th century is largely missing from the internet.” For academics fearful of quoting from copyrighted texts, teachers who may be violating the law with every photocopy, and modern-day artists in search of inspiration, the event is a cause for celebration. For those who dread seeing Frost’s immortal ode to winter used in an ad for snow tires, “Public Domain Day,” as it is sometimes known, will be less joyful. Despite that, even fierce advocates for copyright agree that, after 95 years, it is time to release these works. “There comes a point when a creative work belongs to history as much as to its author and her heirs,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild….”