Public Domain Day

Public Domain Day 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 1 January based on the individual copyright laws of each country.[1]

Public Domain Day
Logo PDD 2020.svg
A logo of the 2020 Public Domain Day
Official nameInternational Public Domain Day
Also calledIPDD
DateJanuary 1
Next time1 January 2021 (2021-01-01)

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 domainEdit

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

Copyright protection terms are typically described as the life of the author plus a certain number of years after his or her death (or pma: post mortem auctoris).[4] In many jurisdictions, this usually means that 70 years have passed since the day of author's death.[4] After that period, the works of those authors become fully available so that everyone—without any need for prior authorization—can access and use them for any purpose whatsoever.[4] Legally, this happens on New Year's Day (January 1).[5] That means that in those countries, the works of authors who died, anywhere in the world, throughout the year of 1950, passed into public domain on 1 January 2020.

Since public domain rights vary based on jurisdiction, the passage of a work into the public domain is not worldwide.[6] The most noticeable exception is the United States, where no additional published works entered the public domain automatically from 1999 to 2018.[6][7] Australia's copyright scheme is even more restrictive, with no Public Domain Day possible until 2026.[8] Most of Europe will witness various works passing into the public domain, as will Canada and New Zealand.[3][4][6] Many more works would be entering the public domain if not for the copyright extension that has occurred several times in the past several decades.[9]

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]


Public Domain Day celebration in Poland (2008)

It is not clear when Public Domain Day started to be observed (it was mentioned by Lawrence Lessig in 2004[3]) but in recent years it has been mentioned by Project Gutenberg[11] and has been promoted by Creative Commons.[12] Public Domain Day events have been hosted on various dates in Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Israel.[13][14]

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.[15][16]

In January 2012, a celebration was announced in Warsaw, Poland[17] and for the first time in Kraków[18]), 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.[19][20] Other 2012 events announced worldwide:[21]

  • Switzerland: Public Domain Jam, Zurich
  • Israel: PD Day Celebration at Haifa University, Haifa
  • 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.


Public Domain Day in 2019 was significant in the United States as it was the first to have any meaningful copyright expirations there since the holiday's establishment; a 20-year freeze had been imposed in 1998 with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.[22] Several activities were carried to celebrate the event, including a special section at the MIT Libraries for public domain works[23] and the "Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain"[24] 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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Richmond, Shane (2010-01-01). "Happy Public Domain Day! Here's to many more – Telegraph Blogs". Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  2. ^ Happy Public Domain Day!, Wallace J.McLean, Jan 1, 2004.
  3. ^ a b c Lessig, Lawrence (2004-01-01). "public domain day - in Canada (Lessig Blog)". Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2011-07-01.
  4. ^ a b c d "About | Public Domain Day - 1 January 2012". Public Domain Day. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  5. ^ "To celebrate the role of the public domain in our societies | Public Domain Day - 1 January 2012". Public Domain Day. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  6. ^ a b c "Public Domain Day". Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  7. ^ Anderson, Nate (2010-01-04). "Nothing to celebrate on Public Domain Day 2010 in the US". Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  8. ^ "Project Gutenberg Australia Newsletter February 2009". Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  9. ^ "What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2011?". 2011-01-01. Archived from the original on December 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  10. ^ "Authors entering the Public Domain in 2011 | Public Domain Day - 1 January 2012". Public Domain Day. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  11. ^ "January 1, 2011 is going to be Public Domain Day — Project Gutenberg News". 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  12. ^ "Public Domain Day". Creative Commons. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  13. ^ Carlos, Juan (2011-12-12). "Public Domain Day 2012 | International Communia Association". Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  14. ^ "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 2012-01-27.
  15. ^ "Launch of the Public Domain Review to celebrate Public Domain Day 2011", Open Knowledge Foundation blog, Jan 1, 2011.
  16. ^ The Public Domain Review
  17. ^ Jak świętowaliśmy Dzień Domeny Publicznej 2012 | Domena Publiczna
  18. ^ Obchody Dnia Domeny Publicznej w Krakowie | Domena Publiczna
  19. ^ "Report from Public Domain Day 2011 in Poland | Dzień Domeny Publicznej 2012" (in Polish). 2010-12-31. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  20. ^ "Dzień Domeny Publicznej 2012 | uwalniamy artefakty kultury!" (in Polish). Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  21. ^ "P.D. Day 2012 Celebrations". COMMUNIA. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
  22. ^ Holmes, Helen (31 December 2018). "2019 Will Gift Us With a Huge Release of Copyrighted Works Entering the Public Domain". Observer. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  23. ^ "MIT Libraries". Retrieved 2019-12-06.
  24. ^ Bailey, Lila. "Join us for A Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain | Internet Archive Blogs". Retrieved 2019-12-06.

External linksEdit