Public Domain Day logo
Image credit: Cienkamila; slightly edited by odder [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

On January 1 of each year, a batch of formerly copyrighted works enter the public domain, meaning anyone can now use them for any purpose. But copyright laws—and in particular, copyright durations—vary from country to country, and the United States has been especially greedy, with laws extending copyright protections over and over again, far beyond the original intention of the very notion of copyright. This year, for the first time in 21 years, a huge batch of copyrights are finally expiring in the United States, making works from 1923 fair game. (My friend Glenn Fleishman explains what’s going on in his Smithsonian Magazine article For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain.) You can read a list of some of the most prominent works entering the public domain on BoingBoing. My favorite, of course, is the song “Yes! We have no bananas,” which I was telling my eight-year-old son about just last week. You can now remix it to your heart’s content.