Some of the allstars of the Public Domain Class of 2013 (image via Public Domain Review) (click to enlarge)

Some of the all stars of the Public Domain Class of 2013 (image via Public Domain Review) (click to enlarge)

Continuing a tradition we began last year, we’d like to wish you not just Happy New Year today, but also Happy Public Domain Day!

For those in need of a refresher, Public Domain Day marks the date when copyright expires on the works of authors, artists, and creators who died a certain number of years ago, thus entering those works into the public domain and making them freely available for others to use, adapt, and transform. This only applies in countries where the law stipulates a “life plus 70 years” copyright term, which includes most of South America, Russia, Australia, and almost all of Europe. In the US, on the other hand, pretty much nothing new will enter the public domain until at least 2019, because of our intense copyright laws. (You can see a world map of copyright laws and length here.)

So whose work is being freed up this year? The Public Domain Review has compiled a brief list, along with a cute graduation class photo they made (see above), of some of the most notable people. Among them are:

Grant Wood, the painter of “American Gothic,” which is such a ubiquitous image it’s hard to believe it’s not already in the public domain;

Grant Wood, “American Gothic” (1930) (image via Art Institute of Chicago)

Walter Sickert, the German-born, British-raised artist who painted grimy scenes of everyday life in turn-of-the-century England, and whose painting of a bedroom supposedly inhabited by Jack the Ripper made some writers decades later suspect that Sickert himself was Jack the Ripper;

Walter Sickert, “The Camden Town Murder or What Shall We Do about the Rent?” (c. 1908) (image via Tate)

Polish writer and artist Bruno Schulz, whose book The Street of Crocodiles has already been famously adapted by the Quay Brothers, and who was protected for a time by a Nazi Gestapo officer who hired Schulz to paint a mural in his house;

Bruno Schulz, “Undula at Night” (1920–22) from “The Book of Idolatry” (image via

And A.E. Waite, co-creator of the popular Rider-Waite tarot deck and author of the guide Key to the Tarot.

The Sun card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck (image via Wikipedia)

You can find and read about others at the Public Domain Review, or, if you really want to dive in, just browse through the Wikipedia page of people who died in 1942. And then — start remixing!

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

2 replies on “Happy Public Domain Day!”

  1. Concerning Sickert and the suggestion that he was Jack the Ripper… thanks for saying ‘writers’…. Patricia Cornwell is often credited as the first to suggest it — she wasn’t the first.

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