Thousands of Copyrighted Works Will Now Be Freely Available to Teachers
Why has it taken almost 100 years for these copyrights to expire? In 1999, Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended protections for rights holders for 20 years. That created a two-decade gap between the works of 1922—which passed into the public domain in 1998, before the law was passed—and those of 1923.
Some teachers on the lesson marketplace Teachers Pay Teachers are profiting from materials adapted or taken wholesale from other educators.
Of course, even before books, movies, and musical compositions passed into the public domain, teachers looking to reprint and distribute them in part could have claimed fair use—an exception to copyright law that allows excerpts of protected material to be used for criticism, research, journalism, or teaching without permission or payment. But what counts as fair use is decided in court, and educators could still have faced legal challenges—especially if they distributed or sold their work to other teachers.
Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has listed (and linked to copies of) some of the most well-known titles. And the digital library HathiTrust has compiled over 50,000 works that are now freely available.
‘The drought is over’: mass US copyright expiry brings flood of works into public domain