January 1stst is a day worth celebrating. Not only is it New Year’s Day, but it’s also Public Domain Day. This is when copyrights expire and works can enter the public domain; which means people can access it for free.
This year, the public domain welcomed some big names. William Faulker Ernest Hemingway’s first published works, as well as AA Milne’s first Winnie-the-Pooh book, have all been made public.
What’s even more exciting is that thanks to a 2018 law called the Music Modernization Act, for the very first time, a new category of sound recordings has been added to the public domain. Decades of amazing recordings from 1922 – a treasure trove of around 400,000 works – are now open for legal use. This includes some great songs such as Irving Berlin’s Men prefer blondesand George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin someone to watch over me.
Why is the public domain worth celebrating?
When works enter the public domain, they can be shared legally, without permission or charge.
This is something Hemingway, who was known for do not appreciating the censorship and being compelled to write in the common “genteel form”, i.e. without swear words. Youth orchestras can perform public domain music publicly, without having to pay expensive license fees. Community theaters can show films, such as Don Juan, and For God’s sake free. Online repositories such as HathiTrust, Internet Archive and Google Books can make these creations fully available online. This access helps give a second life to important cultural materials, which otherwise might be lost to history.
The vast majority of works from the early 20and century are no longer in circulation, and without the public domain, they could disappear forever from our future. When works enter the public domain, people can access them and save them from obscurity, allowing anyone who wants to discover them, enjoy them, and breathe new life into them.
The public domain is a source of inspiration and new ideas. Copyright is designed to promote creativity, and the public domain plays a central role in this regard. Copyrights are important, and copyright laws protect owners and creators by creating a way to exchange ideas in an orderly and fair manner.
However, it also ensures that these rights only last for a limited time. When that copyright expires, works enter the public domain, where future writers can legally build on past legacies. This reimagining of stories allows some of our favorite books to be turned into fan fiction, movies, and adapted into plays and songs.
Here is a list of works that were released on January 1, 2022:
Films entering the public domain
- The Sheikh’s Son
- For God’s sake
- the temptress
- Don Juan
- The Cohens and Kellys
- Barbara Worth’s Victory
- Moana (docufiction filmed in Samoa)
- Faust (German expressionist classic)
- So This Is Paris (based on the play Le Réveillon)
- Battling Butler (with Buster Keaton)
Books in the public domain
- Agatha Christie, The murder of Roger Ackroyd
- Edna Ferber, Show boat
- William Faulkner, pay soldiers (his first novel)
- A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
- Ernest Hemingway, The sun also rises
- DH Laurent, The Feathered Serpent
- Dorothee Parker, enough rope (collection of poems)
- Langston Hughes, The Tired Blues
- TE Laurent, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
- HL Mencken, Notes on Democracy
- Felix Salten, Bambi, A life in the woods
- Kahlil Gibran, sand and moss
- Willa Catherine, my mortal enemy
Musical compositions entered into the public domain
- Goodbye black bird (Ray Henderson, Mort Dixon)
- Ke Kali Nei Au (“Waiting For Thee”) (Charles E. King), renamed 1958 Hawaiian wedding song with new lyrics by Hoffman & Manning
- Cossack love song (Otto Harbach, George Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Herbert Stothart)
- Men prefer blondes (IrvingBerlin)
- Black background trampling (Ferd ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton)
- someone to watch over me (Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin)
- Sleep Nessun from Turandot (Franco Alfano, Giacomo Puccini, Giusseppe Adami, Renato Simoni)
- are you alone tonight (Roy Turk and Lou Handman)
- When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along (Harry Woods)
- hang it up (Joseph “King” Oliver)
An avid book reader, Angela Waterfield is new to the world of e-readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, physical fitness and enjoys being outdoors. She has contributed writing to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Lifeliner and Citymedia.ca.