When copyrights expire, works enter the public domain. This legal transition usually happens every year on 1 January based on the individual copyright laws of each country.
The most typical copyright is the life of the author plus a certain number of years after his or her death. In most countries this number is 70. After that period, the works of those authors become fully available so that everyone – without any need for prior authorization – can access and use them for any purpose whatsoever.
The United States has one of the more restrictive copyright laws. In 1998 Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act, variously called the Sonny Bono Act and the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, which which increased the U.S. copyright license from 70 to 95 years.
These are a few of the works that will enter the public domain today. You can find a more complete list in lifehacker.
Film: Sherlock Jr.
Music: “Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?”
Literature: E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India
Theater: Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms
Visual Art: Paul Klee’s Asiatic God, Carnival in the Mountains, Flower Garden
In case you’re In case you’re interested Internet Archive, Creative Commons and others have organized a Public Domain Day celebration at the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. featuring artists, organizations, and thinkers working on issues related to the public domain. (Admission is free.)