The past few New Year’s Days, and every January 1st going forward, herald a special event in the realm of copyright for an ever-growing collection of works of creative arts that fall into the public on that first day of the year.
This January 1st marks that special day for one of our favorite literary characters, Winnie-the-Pooh, who famously said to one of his friends, “It isn’t much good having anything exciting if you can’t share it with somebody.”
Well, guess what, Winnie? A.A. Milne’s beloved tale of you and your pals entered the public domain on January 1, 2022, and can now be shared and re-published for free. And not just Winnie-the-Pooh. The life of a copyright–including all the exclusive rights and restrictions encompassed by that copyright–is 95 years. Accordingly, the copyrights in a whole slew of beloved books, movies, songs turned 96 on January 1, 2022–and thus entered the public domain. In addition to Winnie-the-Pooh, the public domain now includes Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Dorothy Parker’s Enough Rope, Langston Hughes’ The Weary Blues, and on and on and on.
What this means for all of us is a topic I explore in this post I wrote for my law firm. And, as you will see in that post, there is an important cautionary lesson lurking within the realm of public domain, as best exemplified by the action figure below from the McFarlane Toys’ “Twisted Land of Oz” collection.