Public Domain Day 2021

2 Feb 2021

Every year, we organise Public Domain Day to offer organisations in the cultural heritage sector a platform to inspire each other to take action and make works available in the public domain. Because of coronavirus restrictions, this year a virtual edition will be taking place on 2 February 2021.

Public domain

The public domain is the collection of all creative works that are not subject to exclusive intellectual property rights such as copyrights and other related rights. Every year on 1 January, a new group of works becomes available in the public domain because copyright protection expires 70 years after the death of the author or artist in Belgium. Content in the public domain is the perfect content to include in your open data policy and make available for re-use.

Public Domain Day provides people and organisations in the cultural heritage sector in Belgium with a platform to share best practices, learn from each other and exchange ideas about making heritage collections available in the public domain.


Public Domain Day is a platform for all heritage organisations. Has your heritage organisation undertaken any activity this year to make data pertaining to – or reproductions of – works available for which the copyright protection has expired? And would you like to talk about it? Then please contact Sam Donvil to discuss presenting your experiences and results during this year’s showcase moment.


Together with KBR (Royal Library of Belgium) and Wikimedia België, we’re presenting the following programme on 2 February:

  • 14:00-14:15: Introduction

  • 14:15-15:00: Showcase of people and organisations in the heritage sector that make public domain content accessible

  • 15:00-15:15: Presentation of the Public Domain Tool (Bart Magnus, meemoo)

  • 15:15-15:30: Wiki Loves Heritage 2020 Award Ceremony (Geert Van Pamel, Wikimedia Belgium)

The event will be held in English.

Registrations for this event have endend.

Why have a Public Domain Day?

Public Domain Day was created to draw attention to the fact that copyright protection on works by a number of artists and authors expires every year on 1 January. This means – legally at least, although not often in practice – these works can be made accessible and re-used without restrictions by everyone, as long as they’re not subject to any other restrictions. Copyright protection lasts for 70 years in our country, so this year works by some artists who died in 1950 will become available in the public domain on 1 January 2021 – including works by visual artist Max Beckmann, painter Anna De Weert and authors George Orwell and George Bernard Shaw.

This legal status does not mean that works can be accessed automatically, however. Public Domain Day therefore draws attention from all over the world to the fact that there are often still legal, financial, technical and institutional barriers that prevent the general public from gaining access to this content even after its copyright protection has expired.

Meemoo helps its content partners and the wider cultural field unlock their content and make it accessible to the target audience by making tools available and sharing expertise. Helping to organise Public Domain Day in Belgium is one of the ways in which we aim to achieve this.

Later on in 2021, we’ll also be organising hands-on workshops relating to the public domain: a rights workshop and a Wikimedia upload workshop. This means your heritage organisation can join a process which gives you the legal and technical information you need to present collections that you have opened up to the public domain in the framework of Public Domain Day 2022.


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