Frost, Robert

710 – A Poem to Celebrate Public Domain Day

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

–Robert Frost–

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

-This poem is one of the many of thousands of poems, books, movies, and musical works from 1923 that entered the Public Domain in the United States yesterday, and now belongs to We the People. This is the first time in over 20 years that a large volume of works has entered the Public Domain. Copyright is important so that artists, publishers, and creators can make a living off of their work. However, a long copyright period (in this case 95 years), which in many cases extends decades beyond the life of the creator, can cause a significant loss in cultural material and the cultural irrelevance of material that was genuinely important for a period. This is a tragedy for all people, but especially to those artists, publishers, and creators in the future. Duke University’s Center for the Study of Public Domain discusses this issue in more detail here.