Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Copyrights End for 1925 Hits “The Great Gatsby,” “Mrs. Dalloway,” Songs by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Ma Rainey, “Sweet Georgia Brown”

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1925– it was a very good year. It was the year F. Scott Fitzgerald published “The Great Gatsby,” Virgina Woolf issued “Mrs. Dalloway,” Theodore Dreiser wrote “An American Tragedy.” “The Painted Veil” — a movie not too long ago — was published by Somerset Maugham.

And now, their copyrights have expired after 95 years. They are in the public domain. If you want to write your own version, change the characters, write sequels or prequels, knock yourself out. Their estates can’t control it.

Someone’s already written a “Gatsby” prequel about Nick Carraway, the famed narrator. Fitzgerald and his editor, Max Perkins, are no doubt rolling in their graves. Zelda will have to cut back on her heavenly parties.

Some songs by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and Ma Rainey — currently starring in her own movie — are also up for grabs now. “Always” by Berlin, “Looking for a Boy” by George and Ira, and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” by Gus Kahn & Walter Donaldson are all also in the public domain.

All of the 1925 works would have expired in 2001, but Congress put on a 20 year extension.

Also on the list are films by Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, the German translation of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” and the classic song “Sweet Georgia Brown” by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard & Kenneth Casey.

Eventually, all works will expire under the copyright law including “Hamilton” and the Beatles’ songs and even the latest hit by Taylor Swift. The older rights holders who’ve made recent deals — like Lindsey Buckingham and Bob Dylan — are getting their dough while they can.

How long before Gatsby fakes his death in the swimming pool, reinvents himself as someone else famous with plastic surgery — and Hollywood makes a movie? Oh, it won’t be long, I’ll bet.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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