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.
- A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, decorations by E. H. Shepard 6
- Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
- Dorothy Parker, Enough Rope (her first collection of poems)
- Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues
- T. E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (later adapted into the film Lawrence of Arabia)
- Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam
- Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
- Edna Ferber, Show Boat
- William Faulkner, Soldiers’ Pay (his first novel)
- Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy
- Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds, Crazy Blues, Don’t Care Blues, That Thing Called Love, and You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down (Perry Bradford)
- Ethel Waters, Down Home Blues (Tom Delaney) and There’ll Be Some Changes Made (Benton Overstreet, Billy Higgins)
- Sophie Tucker, Some of These Days (Shelton Brooks) and Pick Me Up and Lay Me Down (Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar)
- Norfolk Jazz & Jubilee Quartets, Jelly Roll Blues (Ferd “Jelly Roll” Morton)
- Fisk University Jubilee Quartet, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (see story) (Traditional African-American spiritual song)
- Vess L. Ossman, Maple Leaf Rag (Scott Joplin)
- Bert Williams, Nobody and Let It Alone (Bert Williams, Alex Rogers), and Everybody Wants a Key to My Cellar (Ed Rose, Billy Baskette, Lew Pollack)
- Billy Murray, Give My Regards to Broadway and The Grand Old Rag (Flag) (George M. Cohan), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (Irving Berlin)
- Enrico Caruso performances from operas such as Rigoletto and La Traviata (Giuseppe Verdi), La Bohème (Giacomo Puccini), and Pagliacci (Ruggero Leoncavallo); songs such as Over There (George M. Cohan, French lyrics Louis Delamarre) and O Sole Mio (Neapolitan folk song)
- Pablo Casals, Bourée (Johann Sebastian Bach) and Dream of Love (Liebestraum) (Franz Liszt)
- Sergei Rachmaninoff, Liebesleid (Fritz Kreisler; arr. Rachmaninoff)
- Orquesta Max Dolin, La Golondrina (Narciso Serradell Sevilla)
- Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra, Ory’s Creole Trombone (Edward ‘Kid’ Ory)
- The Sousa Band, The Star-Spangled Banner (John Stafford Smith, Francis Scott Key, arr. John Philip Sousa), Semper Fidelis and multiple other marches by John Philip Sousa
- Jules Levy, The Tale of the Bumble Bee (Gustav Luders, Frank Pixley)
- Anna Chandler, She’s Good Enough To Be Your Baby’s Mother (and She’s Good Enough To Vote With You) (Herman Paley, Alfred Bryan)
- Fanny Brice, My Man (Maurice Yvain, Jacques-Charles, Albert Willemetz, English lyrics Channing Pollock) and Second Hand Rose (Grant Clarke, James F. Hanley)
- Marion Harris, I Ain’t Got Nobody (Roger A. Graham, Spencer Williams)
- Nora Bayes, How You Gonna Keep ’Em Down on the Farm? (Joe Young, Sam M. Lewis, Walter Donaldson)
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.