With the New Year comes a new batch of films, books, and comics that will enter public domain after copyrighted works reach their expiration date. Everything has an expiration date, even the copyright on characters like Superman and Snow White (which will both expire between 2031 to 2025). The early 20th century saw the birth of some of the greatest works in film and literature, and to the public’s luck, a large chunk of those works will become public property within the next few years.
What exactly does that mean? It means you can use those works freely without the fear of getting sued for copyright law violations. But there are certain limitations: You can only use a piece of work in the exact form of its public domain version. For example, there are a number of versions of Mickey Mouse, but the only one that’s entering public domain soon is Steamboat Willie , with his white hat and without Mickey’s iconic gloves. The same applies to characters like Superman and Batman. And while The Great Gatsby copyright expires in 2021, you’ll only be allowed to use the original novel and not the film.
Big studios like Disney are notorious for extending copyright claims over its works, like Mickey Mouse, but as the deadline nears, there's still no news of whether they plan to extend Steamboat Willie's copyright for now.
It’s a tricky minefield to tread, but if you brush up on your knowledge of copyright law and public domain, you’ll be able to use the following works that will enter public domain in the next five years:
The Wizard of Oz (1939 film): Copyright expires in 2020 Gone with the Wind (1939 film): Copyright expires in 2020 Baby, It’s Cold Outside (1944 song): Copyright expires in 2020 The Great Gatsby (1925, book): Copyright expires in 2021 Photo by WIKIPEDIA . Tarzan (1912, book): Copyright expires in 2021 Photo by WIKIPEDIA . Animal Farm (1945, book): Copyright expires in 2021 Photo by WIKIPEDIA . Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949, book): Copyright expires in 2021. Photo by WIKIPEDIA . Steamboat Willie (1928 film): Copyright expires in 2024