New Year, New Takes on Classics Emerge As Copyright Extension for Thousands of Works Expires

January 2, 2019 Alerts and Newsletters

Have you dreamt up the perfect alternate ending to The Prophet or want to freely distribute your version of the cartoon Felix the Cat? Well, you are in luck. Starting January 1, 2019, thousands of literary works, films, and songs will enter the public domain, marking the end of the 20-year copyright protection extension passed by Congress in the late 1990's.

Known to some as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act," due to Disney's role in lobbying for these terms, this legislation extended the 75-year copyright term for works published between 1923 and 1977 to 95 years.

It is unlikely that another copyright extension will be passed by Congress and copyrights of classic works, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, will continue to expire over the next few years. And, they too, will then be open for distribution and reproduction, both increasing the availability and decreasing the costs of these esteemed works. This may also pave the way for more sequels, adaptations, and reinterpretations derived from familiar storylines and characters, as artists can exert creative freedom with less fear of copyright infringement lawsuits.

Not all are rejoicing, however, as publishers and descendants of the writers and artists have come forward with concerns that this will negatively impact the legacies and esteemed quality of these classic works.

No matter which side of the issue you fall on, this will certainly change and, perhaps re-energize, the cultural landscape moving forward.

Should you have any questions regarding whether a work remains protected by copyright or if you are interested in learning more about registering to protect your creative work, please contact Kelly Donahue or another member of Verrill Dana's Intellectual Property & Technology Group based in the firm's Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine offices.