Creators are now able to freely adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic story in new ways.

By Nick Romano
January 01, 2021 at 12:37 PM EST
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Every year, as we leave one behind and enter another, a new batch of literary works enter the public domain. That means the copyrights, which protect books from replication and adaptation for a certain number of years depending on when those books were published, expire, allowing creators to adapt or reimagine these works for free without dealing with the original authors' estates. "And all of the works are free for anyone to use, reuse, build upon for anyone — without paying a fee," Duke University law professor Jennifer Jenkins explained to NPR. Now that we're in 2021, copyrights for books published in 1925 are lifting, including ones on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

It's no coincidence that author Michael Farris Smith is publishing Nick, a Great Gatsby prequel novel about Nick Carraway, a few days from now. According to Time, new additions of the original novel are being printed with fresh introductions by author Min Jin Lee and culture critic Wesley Morris, and January will also bring an illustrated edition from Black Dog & Leventhal.

Other works entering public domain include Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, Agatha Christie's The Secret of Chimneys, Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith, Franz Kafka's The Trial (in German), Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Edith Wharton's The Writing of Fiction, and Aldous Huxley's Those Barren Leaves. Additional perks of an expired copyright include the ability to publish books at cheaper retail rates and publish books for free online.

The lifting copyrights also extend to film, including Harold Lloyd's The Freshman and Buster Keaton's Go West, and music, including works from Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, who's portrayed by Viola Davis in this year's film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. An exhaustive list of the affected works can be found from the University of Pennsylvania.

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The Great Gatsby

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