Write Now: ‘Gatsby’ Moves Into Public Domain

I’ll admit as I have before. I didn’t read many novels in junior high and high school. It’s not because I don’t like reading.

I love reading.

During those years, I read more periodicals than books. I loved reading magazines and newspapers, and record jackets.

Still do, but now material seldom comes with digital releases, and sometimes one has to pay extra for it whereas with compact discs, the information was free.

Then I went off to college and I had to read more novels. It would seem that “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was foisted on me, but upon reflection, I am glad it was.

It became one of my favorite books. The other is “Dracula.”

While it may look like a novella, it is an awesome story of one trying to attain the American dream.

Doesn’t everyone want their American dreams to come to fruition?

In my opinion, the dreams that the characters had “The Great Gatsby” almost did come to fruition.

In a word, the book is one of best works in American literature. It is often referred to as the great American novel.

Now “The Great Gatsby” has fallen into public domain, and what a boon that is for teachers, and authors alike. John Williams of The New York Times notes that new editions will be available as well as different formats including a graphic novel and a zombie adaptation.

According to Stanford University, fairuse.standford.edu, “The term ‘public domain’ refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.” The university said there are four ways works fall into public domain:

¯ The copyright has expired

¯ The copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules

¯ The copyright owner deliberately places the work in the public domain, known as dedication

¯ Copyright law does not protect this type of work

As of 2019, the university’s fair use website noted, copyright has expired for all works published in the United States before 1924. In other words, if the work was published in the U.S. before Jan. 1, 1924, one is free to use it in the U.S. without permission. These rules and dates apply regardless of whether the work was created by an individual author, a group of authors, or an employee. It was also explained on the website that because of a law passed in 1998, no new works fell into the public domain between 1918 and 2018 due to expiration. In 2019, works published in 1923 expired. In 2020, works published in 1924 will expire, and so on. For works published after 1977, if the work was written by a single author, the copyright will not expire until 70 years after the author’s death. If a work was written by several authors and published after 1977, it will not expire until 70 years after the last surviving author dies.

So what does this mean for authors, artists and educators? Because of the copyright lapse, it means they can reinvent or reinterpret parts of the novel including characters and plots for their own purposes.

No longer do they have to ask for permission or pay a fee to use the work. Before the lapse, those two avenues literally, no pun intended, cost time and money.

It will be interesting to see all of the reinventions and reinterpretations that will follow.


Year-End Expiration

Of Copyright Terms

Copyright protection always expires at the end of the calendar year of the year it’s set to expire. In other words, the last day of copyright protection for any work is Dec. 31. For example, if an author of a work died on June 1, 2000, protection of the works would continue through Dec. 31, 2070. (fairuse.standford.edu.)


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