You do and I do and Van Dyke Parks does — on his famed Song Cycle album, there’s a song called “Public Domain,” and what’s more, there’s a song called “Van Dyke Parks,” credited to Public Domain — but Congress never thinks about it except to ignore it and extend already-distended copyrights. It’s almost mechanical with them — and, for that matter, YouTube:
[P]eople playing music from Johann Sebastian Bach in videos on YouTube were told that they were playing copyrighted music and it would have to be taken down or they would have to allow advertising on the video. The idea is kind of ludicrous, because Bach’s music has long been in the public domain and can be played by anyone who can master it.
The problem, it turns out, is that certain performances of Bach pieces are indeed copyrighted by the music companies that released them. When the YouTube algorithm that sniffs around and looks for copyright violations encounters the computer code that makes sounds like the sounds it knows are copyrighted, it flags them and the person who posted the video gets a notice about it.
Which is fine with me if you’re trying to pass off Glenn Gould’s playing as your own, not that anyone has ever tried that (I hope). Otherwise, it’s dumb with a capital D.