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portrait of Jolan Wuyts

Jolan Wuyts

Collections Editor / V4 Design Project Coordinator , Europeana Foundation

Exploring public domain artists through Europeana Collections

This month, Europeana Pro looks at how the public domain contributes to the re-use of cultural heritage and explores different aspects of open access. In this post, Jolan Wuyts highlights notable European artists whose work entered the public domain this year and can be viewed through Europeana Collections!  

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With the start of every new year, the oeuvre of a new batch of artists, journalists, thinkers and other creative minds enters the public domain. In general, copyright protection over works of European authors expires 70 years after the death of the author, which means that on 1 of January 2020, the works of many European authors that died during the year 1949 entered the public domain. 

To emphasise the dynamic nature of copyright protection, here are some of our favourite authors, artists and singers whose work entered the public domain in 2020!

1. James Ensor

James Ensor was a Belgian expressionist and symbolist painter and printmaker. Explore his works on Europeana and be sure not to miss Mu.Zee's exhibition on Ensor in Ostend, which you can go visit until March of 2020.

4. Rosy Wertheim 

One of the women represented on Europeana whose work enters the public domain this year is the Dutch composer Rosy Wertheim, who is known for her cheerful, playful songs. Wertheim taught at the Amsterdam Music Lyceum, but also worked, learned and taught in Paris, Vienna, and New York. During the Second World War, Wertheim moved back to Amsterdam and held secret concerts containing music from banned Jewish composers. Explore Wertheim's compositions on YouTube, and learn more about her music on Europeana.

The structural bias towards male accomplishments throughout history has an impact on the content of our archives, our museums and our digital repositories of cultural heritage. Europeana, alongside other online repositories, and cultural heritage institutions who recognise this bias have been putting in work over the past few years to increase the visibility of female cultural heritage online - explore the WikiProject Women and Europeana's Women's Season as examples!

5. Stanley Kirkby

Our last public domain day highlight comes from the UK, from the spellbinding voice of Stanley Kirkby. Kirkby was a baritone singer who between 1900 and 1930 produced more records in Britain than any other artist. Many of his recordings have been digitised and can be listened to on Europeana, including the well-known tune of ‘It's a Long way to Tipperary’. Find many more digitised Stanley Kirkby records on Europeana. 

Feel like getting creative with public domain works? You can explore over ten million public domain cultural heritage objects on Europeana today and learn more about the public domain through our series on the public domain.

If you are thinking of re-using the works displayed in this post, remember that Europeana relies on our data providers to update the copyright status of an object when it changes. Sometimes institutions simply haven't realised that they are holding works that have entered the public domain and on other occasions, it might take some time to update their metadata, or other rights may persist. Additionally, the authors' and artists’ works highlighted here might have entered the public domain in 2020, but copyright statements can differ over the different layers of abstraction a digitised work has. 

If you want to learn more about the public domain and about copyright in general, have a look at our copyright community page and join the group.