Dec 29, 2018

Tunes published in 1923 will be entering the public domain

United States copyright law is quite restrictive as compared to many other countries. According to the provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1988 (aka "Mickey Mouse Protection Act"), works published or registered before 1978 remain under copyright for 95 years.

Since the passage of the 1988 Mickey Mouse Protection Act, the cutoff date for works entering the public domain has been 1922, with any works published in 1923 or later remaining under copyright. Beginning in 2019, the clock will start running again, with each new year bringing one more year of songs and other works into the public domain. Over the next 20 years or so, most "Golden Age" jazz standards will lose copyright protection.

As of January 1, 2019, copyright will expire for these works published in 1923:

King Porter Stomp
Who's Sorry Now
Tin Roof Blues
Yes! We Have No Bananas
The Charleston
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
I Cried for You

In 2020, these works from 1924 will become public domain:

Everybody Loves My Baby
Fascinating Rhythm
I Want to be Happy
I'll See You in my Dreams
It Had to be You
The Man I Love
Rhapsody in Blue
Somebody Loves Me
Tea for Two
Oh, Lady Be Good

Depending on your tastes, you may find some of these songs to be a bit dated. But the 1920s and 1930s were a period of rapidly increasing musical sophistication. In a few more years we will start to see some of the better tunes by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, et al.

Unless, of course, Congress comes under corporate pressure again, and passes another extension like the 1988 Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

Many other countries have shorter terms of copyright; one common formula is the life of the author plus fifty years (see this table). For example, in Canada you will be able record songs written by Wes Montgomery (d. 1968), without paying royalties.

Some articles to check out regarding copyright:

A Landslide of Classic Art is About to Enter the Public Domain (The Atlantic)

For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works will Enter the Public Domain (Smithsonian.com)

These 1923 Copyrighted Works Enter the Public Domain in 2019 (Lifehacker.com)

Copyright Law of the United States (Wikipedia)


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