Copyright law will soon release items into public domain

It is not always surprising when someone violates the intellectual property rights of an artist in New York or elsewhere since laws protecting creative works are often complex and fluctuating. One of the more confusing aspects of copyright law is the concept of public domain. A work of art in the public domain is available for anyone to use without needing permission from or payment to its owner.

For decades, it has seemed that as certain works get closer to entering the public domain, the laws change to pull them out of reach again. Until the 1970s, copyright protection lasted about 50 years. However, in 1976, Congress passed a law extending copyright protection to 75 years for anything created after 1923. Just as those copyrights were about to expire in 1998, Congress extended the protection to 95 years. This means that many copyrighted works created in 1923 are due to enter the public domain on Jan. 1, 2019.

Many important works have copyrights scheduled to expire next year, such as poems of e.e. cummings, novels by D.H. Lawrence and H.G. Wells, and many films and pieces of music. When these items enter the public domain, they may be used without paying royalties to the copyright owners or the fear of facing lawsuits for copyright infringement. Being in the public domain may also allow such works more open exposure in digital form online and other easily accessible forms.

Understanding copyright law is a challenge. Artists and creators may not know what to do to protect their rights when someone violates their legally copyrighted works. Many may seek the advice of a New York attorney for answers to their questions and guidance in the steps they take to exercise their rights.

Source: mentalfloss.com, "Some of Your Favorite Movies, Books, and Music Are About to Enter the Public Domain", Shaunacy Ferro, April 12, 2018

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