Public Domain Day 2019:  Works you can freely use without permission

Published on January 28, 2019



January doesn’t just signal a fresh start or a new beginning. For those in the creative field,  it’s also celebration of creative freedom because this is the time when copyright protection lapses for certain published works and enter public domain.


January 1st is celebrated in many parts of the world  as Public Domain Day, or the day when copyright protection lapses on select works and officially enter the public domain.  Public domain works are those not subject to copyright, and can be freely used or exploited by the public without seeking permission from the author.


The expiration of copyright protection offers immense creative freedom as the public may remake, recreate, and re-interpret public domain works more freely - paving the way to spur further creativity. Thanks to this creative freedom, visionaries like Walt Disney were able to recreate public domain fairy tales into animated films, making them known and beloved to audiences the world over.


Copyright protection is given to works in the literary and artistic domain so the scope of copyrighted work is quite vast, covering art, music, film, and even scholarly works to name a few.


Which creative and literary works enter the public domain depend on the country's copyright law. The Philippines' term for copyright protection is the duration of the life of the author plus fifty years, based on the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.


Below are some Filipino authors whose works, published in the early 20th century, may already be in the public domain.


‘Child of Sorrow’ by Zoilo Galang


Zoilo Galang may not be a name known to many but he’s often hailed as penning the first Philippine novel in English. A product of the developing American education system in the Philippines, Galang published ‘Child of Sorrow’ in 1921, and followed this up with several short stories in English.


The intellectual property law in the 1920s followed that of the United States’ system, providing for copyright protection for 28 years, but was superseded by Act 3134 in 1924 which changed the term of copyright protection for a sum of 30 years.


‘Nasaan Ka Irog’ & ‘Bituing Marikit’ by Nicanor Abelardo


A renowned Filipino composer whose works are considered staples in music conservatories, Nicanor Abelardo created kundimans and stage compositions prolifically in the pre-WWII era. Among the classic works in his extensive repertoire are Nasaan Ka Irog (1937) and Bituing Marikit (1937).


‘How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife’ by Manuel Arguilla


Just like Galang, Ilocano writer Manuel Arguilla was among the foremost writers of American colonial literature, and received acclaim for his anthologized short story, “How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife” . The short story went on to win first place in the first ever Commonwealth Literary Contest in 1940. Arguilla specialised in the genre of short stories and authored many others during his career as a writer, creative writing professor, and editor.