Public Domain describes when the Copyright protection of various works expires and this work enters into the Public Domain. This legal transition usually happens annually on 1 January which has since been declared Public Domain Day. 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), with support for the idea echoed by Lawrence Lessig. As of 1 January 2010 a Public Domain Day website lists the authors whose works are entering the public domain. There are activities in countries around the world by various organizations all under the banner Public Domain Day.
Public Domain concerns the expiry ofCopyright protection terms which 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). In many jurisdictions, this usually means that 70 years have passed since the day of author’s death. 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. Legally, this happens on New Year’s Day (January 1). That means that in those countries, the works of authors who died, anywhere in the world, in 1936, passed into public domain on 1 January 2007.
Since public domain rights vary based on jurisdiction, the passage of a work into the public domain is not worldwide. The most noticeable exception is the United States, where no additional published works will enter the public domain automatically until 2019. Australia’s copyright scheme is even more restrictive, with no Public Domain Day possible until 2026. In Europe various works will pass into the public domain, as will Canada and New Zealand. 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.
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. 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 Lagerlof, Leon Trotsky, Vito Volterra, Nathanael West, and others.