Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join us every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.
For artists, writers, and musicians, copyright is an invaluable safeguard, protecting intellectual property of original works of authorship. But eventually, no matter how jealously a large corporation might hoard the rights to a lucrative property, almost all creative work passes into the public domain, making it free for reproduction or adaption without permission.
In the U.S., copyright terms were extended twice during the 20th century, up to 95 years—which meant nothing new entered the public domain between 1998 and 2019, and that many works of art were forgotten long before becoming fair game for any contemporary reimagining. The realm of public domain offers almost limitless possibilities for creativity, allowing artists to breathe new life into forgotten works of art, and reintroduce them to modern audiences.
That is the genesis for Public Domain, a musical collaboration between writer and visual artist Katherine McMahon and musician and producer Ray Angry, which turns old songs that have passed out of copyright into new music for the 21st century.
This week marks the release of “Alcoholic Blues,” the second track of the album. Ahead of the song’s debut, Ray and Katherine joined Artnet News senior writer Sarah Cascone to discuss the project and the creative importance of public domain—and to let you hear their incredible music.