January 1st each year is, among other things, Public Domain Day. This is the day, in most industrialised countries, when the copyright period expires on those works which became old enough in the past year. On Public Domain Day, those books, music scores, and artworks enter the public domain en masse. They are free for everyone to use and re-use without asking permission.

This year, Public Domain Day in the USA was notable. For only the second time in 41 years, works actually entered the public domain in the USA on that day. The last time this had happened was in 1998, and before that, 1977. These two 21-year droughts were the results of changes to US copyright law, first in 1976, and again in 1998. “The public domain has been frozen in time for 20 years”, quoted Smithsonian magazine.  Cultural advocates celebrated how the arrival of works into the public domain enriches culture generally in the USA. But they focussed more on literature. I am interested in music scores. Continue Reading »