Welcome Back, Happy New Year and Happy Public Domain Day

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Welcome back and Happy New Year.  As this is our first post for 2017, we would just like to wish you a belated Happy Public Domain Day!

The first of January of every year is Public Domain Day, which marks the legal transition of copyright works into the public domain as prescribed by the local copyright laws of each country or jurisdiction.  In many countries, copyright protection is generally given to a particular work for the life of the author plus 70 years.  After this period, the work ceases to be protected by copyright and enters the public domain.  This means that the work can be freely used by anyone for any purpose without needing to seek permission from the copyright owner.  Because of the variability of the term of copyright protection in different parts of the world, Public Domain Day is not universally observed, but it nevertheless serves as an important reminder to celebrate the notable contributions made by distinguished artists and authors.

Unfortunately, in Australia no works have entered the public domain in 2017.  Duration of copyright in Australia was extended in 2005 from life of the creator plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. The changes were not retrospective –  works already out of copyright or due to come out on 31 December 2004 remained in or entered the public domain.  However, as a result of the extension to 70 years,  no works will come out of copyright, and into the public domain, in Australia until 1 January 2025.  Only 2920 sleeps to go!!!!

Indeed, the Productivity Commission in their recent review of Intellectual Property found that:

The scope and term of copyright protection in Australia has expanded over time, often with no transparent evidence-based analysis, and is now skewed too far in favour of copyright holders. While a single optimal copyright term is arguably elusive, it is likely to be considerably less than 70 years after death.

This statement lead to an outcry from authors and creators – resulting in a high profile campaign to protect authors and creators’ rights. Despite the fears of many creators and authors, although the Productivity Commission suggested revisiting the length of copyright in Australia with the possibility of reducing it, copyright duration is determined by international treaties to which Australia is a signatory to and therefore it would be very difficult to shorten copyright protection here.

Further information on copyright duration is available on our website and you can also read the Productivity Commission’s final report on their Review of Intellectual Property. You can find out more about how works in other countries with different copyright terms have come into the public domain on Public Domain Day.  I especially like the example of the film It’s a Wonderful Life and how being in the public domain was responsible for the film’s population and growth into Christmas classic as broadcasters were freely able to broadcast the film.

We hope that you’ll keep reading our blog as we have lots of interesting blogs planned for 2017.

Image: Fireworks by nickgesell  Via Pixabay.com