Works that entered the public domain in 2023

New Works to Enter the Public Domain in 2022

A roundup of some of the notable works that entered the Public Domain this year.

Written by Matthew Masino

The Sun Also Rises first edition cover
Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises” is one of many to enter the Public Domain in 2022.

Each year on January 1, a collection of copyrighted work loses their protected status and enters into the Public Domain. This is marked with the celebration of Public Domain Day. In 2021, Public Domain Day made news when F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby entered into the public domain after 95 years of exclusivity.

According to the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, “The goal of copyright is to promote creativity, and the public domain plays a central role in doing so. Copyright law gives authors important rights that encourage creativity and distribution. But it also ensures that those rights last for a ‘limited time,’ so that when they expire, works can go into the public domain, where future authors can legally build upon their inspirations… Anyone can use these works as raw material for their own creations, without fear of a lawsuit. What kinds of things will people do with public domain works?”

Now that it is 2022, many works are entering the public domain for the first time. A lot of them are obscure, but we’ve highlighted some of the big names below. We hope you’re inspired by their newly legal status to go out and create something of your own! Here are just a few selections:

Books

  • Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America by Louis Adamic (1931)
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
  • It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935) 
  • The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent by John Erskine (1915)
  • Show Boat by Edna Ferber (1926)
  • The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes (1926)

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”

From Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues”
  • Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas (1929)
  • Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall (1932)
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (1920)
  • My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather (1926)
  • Ralph 124C 41+ by Hugo Gernsback (1911)
  • The Benson Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine (1926)
  • Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner (1926)
  • Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker (1926)
  • Notes on Democracy by H.L. Mencken (1926)

Films

  • Nanook of the North (1922) written and directed by Robert J. Flaherty
  • Don Juan (1926) written by Walter Anthony, Maude Fulton, and Victor Vance, screenplay by Bess Meredyth
  • Battling Butler (1926) written by Al Boasberg, Lex Neal, Charles Smith, and Paul Gerard Smith; directed by Buster Keaton
  • The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) written by Frances Marion, based on the novel by Harold Bell Wright
  • For Heaven’s Sake (1926) directed by Sam Taylor
  • The Son of the Sheik (1926) written by Frances Marion, Fred de Gresac, and George Marion Jr.

Sound Recordings

  • “That Thing Called Love” by Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds
  • “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Roy Turk and Lou Handman
  • “Swanee” by Al Jolson
  • “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” by Irving Berlin
  • “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)” by Harry M. Woods
  • “Ke Kali Nei Aua” by Charles E. King (later renamed “Hawaiian Wedding Song”)
  • “Someone to Watch Over Me” by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin

International Works

Winnie the Pooh and Piglet
Illustration from Winnie-the-Pooh (1926). Pooh Bear and his friends, as they appear in the original illustrations, entered the public domain in 2022. The Disney versions still remained protected by copyright.

While our goal here at the American Writers Museum is celebrated the writing of American authors, we also want to highlight some international works entering the public domain here in the United States.

  • Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, decorations by E. H. Shephard (1926)
  • The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence (1926)
  • Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten (1923)
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)
  • Faust (1926 film) written by Hans Kyser and directed by F. W. Murnau
  • Turandot (1926 opera) with a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni; based on the play of the same name by Carol Gozzi
  • The Castle, an unfinished novel, by Franz Kafka (1926)

This post was edited May 22, 2023 to reflect further research on copyright of musical recordings. The article previously listed “As Time Goes By” by Herman Hupfeld as public domain, which is incorrect under the Music Moderization Act in the United States.

Matthew Masino is the Social Media Coordinator for the AWM. He is also a content creator, writer, and theatre director based in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated with a B.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Columbia College Chicago in 2019. As a theatre artist, Matthew has worked with the International Voices Project, the Chicago Fringe Festival, and BYOT Productions. You can learn more by visiting his website www.matthewmasino.com.

16 thoughts on “New Works to Enter the Public Domain in 2022

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Richard,
      Copyright on songs is a little tricky. However, from what I can tell very little of Cole Porter’s music has entered the public domain. Knowing this, it is extremely doubtful that “Anything Goes” is in public domain.
      Thanks for taking the time to find out!

      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations and Exhibits

  1. Kim says:

    How do you find out when a TV series becomes public domain? What can you use of a TV series without infringing the copyright? (I.E. I have a character in one of my stories that is obsessed with a particular TV series.)

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Kim,

      Copyright laws can be really complicated and confusing. You can check out this link for more information about how and when different media enters the public domain: https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/
      They may also be able to help you more with your specific questions since that is their specialty.
      Best of luck!
      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi wryker,

      Copyright law can be pretty confusing, particularly in a case like Winnie the Pooh, which has several versions. In general, the book character of Winnie the Pooh (think the stuffed teddy bear with no shirt from the original illustrations and toy) is in the public domain. According to copyright laws, using a bear that looks very similar to the Disney version (wearing a red shirt, for example) would be “confusingly similar” and therefore a violation. It’s also probably best to only use character names inside content such as a book rather than as the title. If it confuses people into thinking it might be Disney, it would be infringement. If it is clear that this is something else that uses the public domain character(s), generally it would not be infringement. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that, and it truly depends on the medium and the goals of a given project.
      Best of luck!
      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Hydie,
      As long as you state the author name, you should be fine. If you are making money on a particular podcast, that can get a little more complicated. However, it sounds like in this case as long as you give credit where credit is due you should be in the clear.

      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Laura,
      As long as there is no copyright holder and the works are truly in public domain, it is possible to use them for profit like your app example. If they recently came into public domain, it is best to check for renewed copyright information, and do your due diligence. I also am not a lawyer or expert on copyright by any means, but I believe that if you do your research you’ll be just fine.
      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Anna,

      The short answer is no, “Friends” would not be free to use in any way that could be monetized.

      Generally, works enter public domain if they were never under copyright at all, if the copyright was invalid or not renewed, or if a certain amount of time has passed since they were originally published. Television shows are particularly complicated since many people work on them and they often use other copyrighted material such as music. “Friends” is a relatively new show, so will not be part of the public domain for a long time.

      Hope this helps!
      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

  2. John Kinhart says:

    Elsewhere on the internet it says that “As Time Goes By” was written in 1931, which would mean it wouldn’t be public domain until 2027, right?

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi John,

      Music recording copyright law is one of the most complicated types of copyright law. Previously, no music whatsoever was part of the public domain in the United Stated. Over the last 6 years or so, that has changed. After further research, the 1931 recording of “As Time Goes By” (1931) will likely enter public domain in 2031. The recording from Casablanca, arguably the most famous recording, will likely not enter the public domain until 2042 at the earliest, and possibly not until 2067 due to changes to the Music Modernization Act.

      Thank you for pointing this out so that we could do more research. We’ll make sure to amend this post to reflect the new information.

      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

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