January 1st is the day that works with expiring copyrights would enter the public domain. In the United states, the number of works entering the public domain is zero. Because of extensions in US Copyright law, no works will enter the public domain here until 2019. 😦
Every year, the Duke University Center for the Study of the Public Domain website writes about the works that would have entered the public domain under the old copyright laws. This year, works from the year 1959 would have entered the public domain: Films like North by Northwest by Hitchcock, Books like Goldfinger by Ian Fleming, music like Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, early episodes TV series like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone or Rawhide, classic science fiction like Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Walter Miller’s exquisite Canticle for Leibowitz.
For me personally, Miller’s Canticle for Leibowitz is a particular travesty because it is not yet available as an ebook, although you can get it in paper (from a publisher I’ve never heard of) or in audio. I suspect the book is an absolute rights nightmare. If you read the Wikipedia entry on the novel, it says that it was originally published as magazine articles, then as a hardcover, and has been published in both paper and hardcover over 40 times since then. The original book publisher itself has changed hands several times. Even the NPR radio play version has been been removed from the Internet Archive due to rights issues.
Anyway, as you ponder the fact that the Kindle version of Starship Troopers that’s selling for $9.99 could actually be free in some alternate universe with different copyright laws, check out Duke’s article on the work that would have entered the public domain this year. There’s a special section for pre-1976 copyrights whose copyrights would have expired. The article addresses the orphan works issues as well.