Now entering the public domain: The Great Gatsby, music by Ma' Rainey and Duke Ellington, and other great works

On January 1, Public Domain Day, a fantastic trove of great works from 1925 are entering the US public domain, free for all to use, remix, and reimagine, including: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Buster Keaton's film Go West, the musical composition "Sweet Georgia Brown" by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, and Kenneth Casey, and my dad's favorite song "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. To see more of the 1925 material, check out the Catalogue of Copyright Entries. And here's what the Center for the Study of the Public Domain has to say:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

This is not just the famous last line from The Great Gatsby. It also encapsulates what the public domain is all about. A culture is a continuing conversation between present and past. On Public Domain Day, we all have a "green light," in keeping with the Gatsby theme, to use one more year of that rich cultural past, without permission or fee[…]

1925 brought us some incredible culture. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. The New Yorker magazine was founded. The literature reflected both a booming economy, whose fruits were unevenly distributed, and the lingering upheaval and tragedy of World War I. The culture of the time reflected all of those contradictory tendencies. The BBC's Culture website suggested that 1925 might be "the greatest year for books ever," and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books such as Gatsby, or The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers, while characters such as Jay Gatsby, Hemingway's Nick Adams, and Clarissa Dalloway still resonate today.

How will people celebrate this trove of cultural material? The Internet Archive will add books, movies, music, and more to its online library. HathiTrust will make tens of thousands of titles from 1925 available in its digital repository. Google Books will offer the full text of books from that year, instead of showing only snippet views or authorized previews. Community theaters can screen the films. Youth orchestras can afford to publicly perform, or rearrange, the music. Educators and historians can share the full cultural record. Creators can legally build on the past—reimagining the books, making them into films, adapting the songs.

Public Domain Day 2021 (Duke Law)