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copyrightBlame Sonny Bono. The former congressman from California’s 44th district (and one-half of the singing duo Sonny & Cher) sponsored successful legislation in 1998 that extended the copyrights on books, plays, music, motion pictures and other artistic works for a period of 20 years. On January 1, this extension drew to a close, opening the floodgates to thousands of major works, which are now steadily pouring into the public domain.

For publishers and literary estates that previously owned the copyrighted movies, songs, poems and books of such luminaries as Charles Chaplin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Noel Coward, Robert Frost and D.H. Lawrence, to name a few, the expiration of these works’ protected status has profound financial consequences, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in royalty payments.

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