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Public Domain Day! January 1st


Cherubs on the Desk Card

Authors and artists in the Public Domain for 2012

Celebrating the new crop of books, artwork, magazines and music that becomes freely available on New Years Day each year. Read free ebooks and see artwork from all the authors and artists on this list, and find printed books and rare editions online.

Copyright restrictions on artwork and publications expire several years after the life of the author. The number of years varies in different counties. In the United States books are released to the public domain with an easy to understand system:

The copyright expires on a book when it is "published before 1923 or published at least 95 years ago in the U.S. OR published 50 years after the author's death in some countries, 70 years after death in others."

Now if that's not clear to you, then welcome to the party! Honoring the creative works of famous authors and painters, designers and song writers who's great labor ended more than 70 years ago. Their legacy can now circulate as a cultural heritage for the benefit of society.


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Set your calendars

Wait 6 years for the party to start in the United States!

The real story is that Public Domain Day is only celebrated in other parts of the world for the next decade because in the United States, no books will enter into the public domain until the year 2019 (95 years after 1922).

In practice, this means creative works done "for hire" with a publisher are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. However, the work of private authors enters the public domain 70 years after the author's death. This is the term of copyrights in the European Union, the only place we will hear about new public domain announcements until 2019.

List of authors entering the public domain

2012 Honorees

  • Robert Baden-Powell - Boy Scouts of America Founder
  • Henri Bergson - Investigated the "science" of comedy
  • Louis Brandeis - Other People's Money
  • James Frazer - The Golden Bough
  • James Joyce - "Stream of consciousness" writing
  • Gaetano Mosca - "Theory of Elitism" when Italy was still a Kingdom
  • Rabindranath Tagore - "Gurudev" earned the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Marina Tsvetaeva - Soviet poet during and after the Russian Revolution
  • Virginia Woolf

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

— Virginia Woolf

Author's Biography

Read Virginia Woolf online

The Internet Archive (archive.org) and Project Gutenberg have many thousands of public domain books in every possible digital format. Download directly to your mobile device, or read PDFs online with your desktop computer. Project Gutenberg is another repository for digital ebooks and audio files, including ePub, Kindle (2 separate files - with and without images), Plucker and other formats.

  1. Four Virginia Woolf books from Project Gutenberg
  2. eBooks and audio files from Archive.org

Robert Baden-Powell - (1857 - 1941) Founded the Boy Scouts of America

Read Baden-Powell books at no cost

  1. Boy Scouts Handbook

    38 public domain titles by the author including the Handbook in translated into different languages, books about sports and narratives of life in far away countries.

  2. My Adventures as a Spy by Baden-Powell of Gilwell

    Project Gutenberg carries 3 public domain titles by the author, and two biographies.

The Philosophy of Comedy

Henri Bergson - (1859 - 1941)

  1. Laughter : an Essay on the Meaning of the Comic

    Project Gutenberg has 3 of Bergson's most popular books, and 3 more titles about the author — available in digital formats for ePub, Plucker, QiOO Mobile and Amazon Kindle (with and without pictures).

  2. Creative Evolution

    The Internet archive has 29 public domain titles by the author, and over 200 books about Henri Bergson by other authors in English, French and German.

Louis Dembitz Brandeis - (1856 - 1941) Associate Supreme Court Judge

Brandeis was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson as an Associate Supreme Court Justice from the years 1916 - 1939. Not only did he create the first legislation to secure the "right to privacy" for all citizens, his later career was focused on doing Pro Bono work for his clients and fighting the monopolies that were prevalent at the time.

He created the precedent for "expert testimony" in court, and was responsible for introducing the idea of a Federal Reserve System and Federal Trade Commission.

Book of natural magic (1890)

Sir James George Frazer - (1854 - 1941)

Ancient legends and traditions of the "ancient mysteries" and sympathetic magic were reintroduced to a new generation during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. The book was published at a time when there was widespread interest in "Mesmerism" and unlocking the dormant powers of the human mind.

Online resources for James George Frazer

  1. Folk-lore in the Old Testament: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend and Law

    12 Different books at the Internet Archive written by the author including Aftermath A Supplement To The Golden Bough Part, Spirits of The Corn And Of The Wild, Apollodorus and Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship.

  2. The Golden Bough

    Download 50 chapters of the audio book in MP3 and OGG format, or subscribe in iTunes.

Alchemy and natural science


More from dotpattern

Symbols of alchemy and Hermetic arts

Ancient manuscripts and paintings with symbolic drawings and diagrams are filled with mystery and intrigue which captured the interest of the public recently...

James Joyce - (1882 - 1941)

Royalty-free in Europe

Actually, Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man have been in the public domain in the United States for a long time. The interesting story is that of his grandson, Stephen Joyce, who now serves as the poster child in favor of limiting copyright restrictions because of his unseemly conduct in court trying to extend the copyright of his ancestor.

James Joyce and the Public Domain

  1. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

    Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Dubliners in eBook formats, and no less than 350 other books and articles about the author from the Internet Archive.

  2. Dubliners

    Project Gutenberg has Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man in several formats for eBooks, and download the MP3 audio book of Dubliners (one file for each chapter).

  3. "HAS JAMES JOYCE BEEN SET FREE?". O'Connell, Mark (January 11, 2012). The New Yorker.
  4. "Q: Which of Joyce's works are in the public domain...?" from the Joyce foundation at Ohio State University.

Putting copyright law to the test

Your action stopped this bill in Congress. Politicians were forced to "postpone the vote indefinitely" on proposed legislation to control free information on the internet. Read about the 24-hour Wikipedia Blackout on January 18th, 2012.

Reader's opinion poll - Please let us know your point of view

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"Everyone has the right to participate freely in cultural life of the community, to enjoy art and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."

— Johannes Morsink

Why is Wikipedia blacked-out? - Protest SOPA and PIPA - 18 January 2012


Wikipedia protested against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia. Instead, you will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, encouraging you to share your views with your representatives, and with each other on social media. Read more...

Official websites and guides to the public domain

"Today [January 16, 2012], the Wikipedia community announced its decision to black out the English-language Wikipedia for 24 hours, worldwide, beginning at 05:00 UTC on Wednesday, January 18 (Midnight, Eastern Time). The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States-the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECTIP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate-that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia.

We think everyone should have access to educational material on a wide range of subjects, even if they can't pay for it. We believe in a free and open Internet where information can be shared without impediment. We believe that new proposed laws like SOPA-and PIPA, and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States-don't advance the interests of the general public.

You can read a very good list of reasons to oppose SOPA and PIPA, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation."

Paul Klee

Paul Klee

Next Page

Public domain works in 2011

2011 Public Domain Artists

  • Isaac Babel
  • Walter Benjamin
  • John Buchan
  • Mikhail Bulgakov
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Emma Goldman
  • Paul Klee
  • Selma Lagerlof
  • Leon Trotsky
  • Vito Volterra
  • Nathanael West
Mucha Postcard

Mucha Postcard

2010 List of Artists

  • Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner

  • Sigmund Freud

  • Alphonse Maria Mucha

  • Maria Waser

  • William Butler Yeats

© 2012 Pat Moire

Please share your experience

Pat Moire (author) from West Village, New York City on January 06, 2013:

@CoolFool83: Check out the new list of Public Domain artists for 2013.

CoolFool83 on January 02, 2013:

This is a very informative lense.

Linda Pogue from Missouri on May 03, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this. The copyright laws are important, and as a writer, I appreciate them. At the same time, I enjoy printing public domain materials for use at home. Blessings.

anonymous on April 15, 2012:

Only 7 years until 2019, that will be one long list!

RCGraphicsDesign on March 07, 2012:

Thanks for the great information - a lens that everyone can use.

Fay Favored from USA on January 23, 2012:

This is a page we all need. Thanks for doing it. Will add it to my Help Me lens.

Mona from Iowa on January 17, 2012:

Interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

WriterJanis2 on January 17, 2012:

Glad you put this information out there.

mennella on January 17, 2012:

i agree totally

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