F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published 88 years ago today, on April 10, 1925.
However, this work won’t enter the public domain in the U.S. until January 1, 2021. That’s because the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the copyright term to 95 years after publication for books published between 1923 and 1962 (if published with a copyright notice and if the copyright was renewed). Copyright law is ridiculously complicated, so right now the only works you can be sure are in the public domain in the U.S. are those published before 1923. So This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned are in the public domain, but The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night are not. This 2011 Duke University Libraries post summarizes the Fitzgerald copyright situation.
Books published today enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. Here are some links for more information about our crazy and complicated copyright system:
- Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a Public Domain Day website which explains why nothing will enter the public domain in the U.S. until 2019.
- Cornell University’s detailed chart of Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.
- The American Library Association’s Digital Copyright Slider.
- Public Domain Sherpa’s U.S. copyright term calculator.
- Europeana’s public domain calculator for Europe.
- An excellent post on the public domain by Glenn Fleishman in The Economist’s Babbage blog.
Update, January 1, 2019: My new blog post about Public Domain Day 2019— works first published in the U.S. in 1923 are now free of copyright, but we still have to wait another two years for The Great Gatsby to enter the public domain.
New update, January 1, 2021: Gatsby and other 1925 works are now in the public domain! See my blog post about Public Domain Day 2021.