As of 1st January 2021, the U.S. copyright has expired on a myriad of novels, films, and songs that were produced in 1925, allowing anyone to use them free of charge and setting the stage for potential new adaptations and reworkings.
Among the works that have now officially entered the public domain are classic titles such as The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s cautionary tale of wild nights, green lights and the naïve optimism of the American Dream – as well as early works by Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Agatha Christie. Recordings by jazz legend Duke Ellington and a number of influential comedy films by Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton have similarly had their restrictions lifted.
Although copyright protections typically expire around 70 years after the end of the author’s life in most countries, laws in the United States were updated in 1998. For works published between 1923 and 1977, the copyright status will change 95 years after the publication date. As a result, copyright protection for works published in 1925 expired at the end of 2020 and entered the public domain at the start of this year.
Now that books such as Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Hemingway’s In Our Time have been liberated from their copyright restrictions, new adaptations can be produced without filmmakers worrying about royalties, making the process much easier. This is not to say that a Muppets Great Gatsby is definitely on the way, but with the novel now in the public domain, it has certainly become much more plausible.
Words by Dan Pearson
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