Thanks to U.S. copyright laws, nothing has entered the public domain in nearly 40 years.

This year's new free public works include Anne Frank's diary, 'The Sound of Music,' and much, much more — unless you live in America.

Every year on Jan. 1, hundreds of copyrights enter the public domain like a New Year's gift to the world, making them free to use for absolutely any reason.

Let's back up a second. Copyrights cover the span of intellectual and creative properties — everything from movies, books, and songs to software, industrial designs, and scientific concepts.

But these protections don't last forever.


It's all about finding the balance between the rights of the creator and the benefits to the public interest. After all, where would we be if things like "Grimms' Fairy Tales" or the Bible or, ya know, computer programming languages were kept on a tight leash by a single company to distribute and profit from as they saw fit?

GIF from the (criminally underrated) film "The Brothers Grimm."

The specifics vary from country to country, but most copyrights expire 50 to 70 years after death or publication.

In countries like Canada, New Zealand, and the majority of Africa and Asia, this means anything made by anyone who died in 1965 is fair game. Books, movies, and music published that same year are also in the public domain.

This includes works from "The Waste Land" poet T.S. Eliot, "A Raisin in the Sun" author Lorraine Hansberry, the endlessly-quotable British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and minister and human rights activist Malcolm X, as well as movies like "The Sound of Music" and "Thunderball."

GIF from "Thunderball." Also if we're being technical, Ian Fleming died in 1964, so the entire concept of "James Bond" is already public domain in these countries. They can remix and reuse him the same way people do Shakespeare.

And people in the European Union, Russia, or Brazil can now freely enjoy anything published in or created by someone who died in 1945.

Pretty cool that everyone in the EU is free to do what they please with the works of blues singer Blind Willie Johnson and former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (so much mash-up potential!). There were also those few neat books like "Animal Farm" and "Pippi Longstocking" plus plays like "The Glass Menagerie" and "Carousel." (Those last two alone would save so much money for high school theater programs.)

GIF from the movie version of "Pippi Longstocking," which itself is still protected by copyright law in these countries, but at least that wouldn't stop you from making your own Pippi Longstocking movie or adapting the original stories into a new hip-hop concept album, or an interactive smartphone video game. The possibilities are endless!

But in America? Not so much. And it's been that way for 40 years.

Oh. Yeah. About that.

Back in 1976, Congress made some changes to U.S. copyright laws, retroactively extending the terms for recent expirations. Then in 1998, they went and did it again when the copyright for the debut animation of a certain mouse-eared corporate mascot was about to become public property.

The result? No copyrights have entered the public domain in the United States since 1978, and no open source intellectual properties will become available until 2019, when we'll finally have access to things from 1923. Yay?

GIF from "Steamboat Willie." Racist undertones aside, can you imagine what percentage of their revenue they would lose without being able to claim the singular ownership of Mickey Mouse? It would be at least like 0.02% of Disney's annual profits!

The U.S. is the only country that lets corporations protect copyrights like this. But Disney is not the only guilty party.

After a whole lot of legal back-and-forth, Sherlock Holmes only entered the public domain in the U.S. in June 2014; of course, none of this was an issue when there were two separate but equally popular Sherlock Holmes media properties.

And it wasn't until this past fall that the "Happy Birthday" song finally took its rightful place in the public domain, after Warner Music had claimed the rights to the song for years in order to keep charging for its use.

This is also why your waiters at TGI Fridays have to sing a different birthday song when you lie and tell them it's someone's birthday for the enjoyment of public embarrassment and the free ice cream sundae. You do that, too, right?

Meanwhile, Anne Frank's father was recently named as the co-author of "The Diary of a Young Girl" in order to extend the book's copyright by another 35 years — the twofold irony being that this claim kind of undermines the whole point of the book, and Hitler's copyright also ended this year and his works are now in the public domain.

That's right: the Anne Frank Foundation wants to keep the profits from her diary all to themselves, but "Mein Kampf" is freely available for anyone to produce, remix, or distribute.

Let that sink in for a moment.

However, copyright remix laws help ensure that things like this can exist.

These public domain works are more than just free, fun giveaways. They're the foundation of our culture.

The public domain is how we pass things down through generations — how ideas spread, proliferate, and grow into new and better things.

That being said, there are plenty of valid reasons for the existence of (limited) copyright laws. But there's also evidence that public domain properties are better for society, both culturally and economically.

This is what allows us to share knowledge on Wikipedia or retell and re-examine famous stories like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." If we weren't able to take, adapt, and redistribute concepts and culture, we'd never have "Star Wars," or smartphone apps from independent developers, or this hilarious video of Vanilla Ice trying to justify his sampling of Queen's "Under Pressure."

When Ice told us to, "Stop! Collaborate and listen!" he was clearly referring to the the importance of public domain properties in perpetuating human culture; unfortunately, Queen is not in the public domain (yet). GIF via Kasper Hartwich/YouTube.

At the end of the day, everything is a remix.

And that's exactly what makes our culture so great — and why it's so important for America to follow the rest of the world's lead.

If you want to join the good fight for a more open culture, you can check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the American Library Association.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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