Copyright Freedom of Speech Main Topic

New Year, New Public Domain Works!

For the 4th year in a row, new works will enter the public domain in the United States. Works created in 1926 or earlier are now in the public domain!

This year is even more special as an estimated 400,000 sound recordings from before 1923 are also in the public domain now.

Copyrighted works entering the public domain were put on hold by the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, aka the the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, which extended the term of copyright from the life of the author + 50 years to life of the author + 70 years. When the term of copyright was 28 years with a 28 year renewal, 85% of copyrighted works were not renewed since the profit from the work wasn’t higher than the cost of renewal. The Center for the Study of the Public Domain notes:

"A Congressional Research Service report indicated that only around 2% of copyrights between 55 and 75 years old retain commercial value. After 75 years, that percentage is even lower. Most older works are “orphan works,” where the copyright owner cannot be found at all."

As a result, we have lost 20 years worth of films, news reels and documentaries because many of them have simply rotted away as the copyright holders didn’t have a financial incentive to digitize them and archivists couldn’t do so while the works were under copyright.

Mickey Mouse is still in Disney lockdown until 2024, but here is a selection of what is entering the public domain. Duke University Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a summary of the new works we can enjoy free of copyright. We provided links to any of the works we found at The Internet Archive, where we expect more works now in the public domain to appear.


Sound Recordings

Musical Compositions (You are free to perform them yourself!)

  • Bye Bye Black Bird (Ray Henderson, Mort Dixon)
  • Snag It (Joseph ‘King’ Oliver)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Irving Berlin)
  • Black Bottom Stomp (Ferd ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton)
  • Someone To Watch Over Me (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin)
  • Nessun Dorma from Turandot (Giacomo Puccini, Franco Alfano, Giusseppe Adami, Renato Simoni)


  • For Heaven’s Sake (starring Harold Lloyd)
  • Battling Butler (starring Buster Keaton)
  • The Son of the Sheik (starring Rudolph Valentino)
  • The Temptress (starring Greta Garbo)
  • Moana (docufiction filmed in Samoa)
  • Faust (German expressionist classic)

Catch Pirate News tonight at 7:30pm Eastern where we will talk about Public Domain Day and all of the latest news of interest to Pirates.

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