For all of us in the United States, January 1st is just New Year’s day. The day the calendar ticks another year. But for people who live outside the US in Canada, Europe and elsewhere, January 1st means something else entirely. It means today is the day that new works enter the Public Domain. This is the day that more of our culture becomes free to distribute, free to build upon , and free to do whatever we want with. Yet, because of terrible copyright laws in the US, we miss out on all this.
Prior to 1978, copyrights lasted only 28 years, with the option to renew them a single time for an additional 28 years. Then in 1978, Congress, under the guidance of companies such as Disney, extended copyrights to last the life of the author plus 50 years. That is what the rest of the world has today. But in 1998, Congress once again, at the bidding of companies like Disney, extend copyrights to last life plus 70 years for human authors and 95 years for corporate owned copyrights. This pushed the US out of line with much of the world and works in the US won’t start entering the Public Domain until 2019.