Happy Public Domain Day!

On New Years Day we are delighted to include a guest post from Posy O’Neill who is the Copyright Advisor, Library Collection and Digital Services at Northumbria University.

Posy O'NeillThe first of January each year, which for most of us means New Year’s Day, can also be regarded as Public Domain Day. This is the day in the UK that marks the end of copyright protection for the creative works of poets, writers, artists, composers, photographers etc who died seventy years ago. In UK law (governed by The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and amendments) copyright duration lasts for seventy years after the end of the year in which the creator died, in most instances. In other countries the copyright term may be longer or shorter than seventy years and the duration also vaBeatrix Potter enters the public domainries with different types of work. However, once the copyright has expired, a work is said to enter the public domain and usually becomes free to re-use, copy, share and alter, only requiring acknowledgement. A recent example is the well-loved work of Beatrix Potter which came into the public domain in 2014 and which inspired Fenwicks’ beautiful tableaux in their Newcastle Christmas window display.

The Public Domain Review publishes their most notable ‘graduates’ each January and the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 include the writers and poets; Ian Fleming, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Edith Sitwell, H.G. Wells, Paul Valéry and Gertrude Stein and the artists; Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Paul Nash.

This online journal provides a source of public domain materials and its ‘graduates’ photos serve as a reminder of their mortality as well as the enduring life of their creations (https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/class-of-2015/).

A rare exception to the seventy year’s copyright duration is Peter Pan, since J.M. Barrie made a gift in perpetuity of the rights to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1929. It was the first hospital in the UK dedicated exclusively to the treatment of children and the Peter Pan royalties provides a significant source of income.

So Happy New Year everyone from your friends at UK Copyright Literacy! We hope 2017 brings you health and happiness and you start enjoying many more works that have entered the public domain!

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