Works that entered the public domain in 2023

New Works to Enter the Public Domain in 2023

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

Written by Matthew Masino

Each year on January 1, a collection of copyrighted work loses its protected status and enters into the Public Domain. This is marked with the celebration of Public Domain Day. We celebrated the day last year when works like Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and “As Time Goes By” from the film Casablanca landed in the Public Domain.

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 2023, many works are entering the public domain for the first time. In the United States, books published in 1927 and films released in 1927 enter the public domain in 2023. Some sound recordings published in 1923 also enter the public domain. Many are obscure, but we’ve highlighted some of the big names below. We hope their new legal status inspires you to go out and create something of your own!

Here are just a few selections of works to enter the public domain in 2023:

Books

  • The Tower Treasure (The Hardy Boys, #1) by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The House on the Cliff (The Hardy Boys, #2) by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The Secret of the Old Mill (The Hardy Boys, #3) by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
  • Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forester
  • The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft
  • Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton
  • Mosquitoes by William Faulkner
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes / But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes by Anita Loos
The cover of The Tower Treasure (The Hardy Boys, #1) by Franklin W. Dixon
The Tower Treasure (The Hardy Boys, #1) has now entered the public domain

Films

The original nine Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons by Walt Disney are set to enter the Public Domain in 2023, though many of them are lost.

  • The Jazz Singer (1927)
  • Chicago (1927)
  • When Boys Leave Home (1927)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927)
  • Wings (1927)
  • Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927)
Watch the trailer for Wings, which won the very first Academy Award for Best Picture.

Sound Recordings

  • “He Loves and She Loves” with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1927)
  • “Ice Cream (I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream)” with words and music by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert A. King (1927)
  • “Ol’ Man River” with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (1927)

International Works

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

  • Steppenwolf by Herman Hess
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • The Lodger, a film by Alfred Hitchcock (1927)
  • Metropolis, a film by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou (1927)
  • Modern Chess Openings by Richard Clevin Griffith and John Herbet White (1927)

Correction (3/2/2023): This article previously stated that Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown entered the public domain in 2023, which is incorrect. Both works are still protected under their original copyright.

Correction (6/14/2023): This article previously listed The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey as entering the public domain this year. While it has entered public domain in some countries, it is still protected by copyright 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.

19 thoughts on “New Works to Enter the Public Domain in 2023

  1. Anna says:

    I believe those music compositions enter the public domain, but not the *sound recordings* of them. Sound recordings are on a different schedule for entrance to the public domain than written compositions, etc.

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Thanks for helping to clarify for others in the comments Anna!

      As you seem to know, copyright law and public domain can be quite tricky!

    • Cynthia marcano says:

      There seems to be some discrepancy in regards to Goodnight Moon entering public domain. Where can I verify if it’s copyright has been extended?

      • American Writers Museum says:

        Hello Cynthia,

        Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will be contacting our affiliate museum associated with Margaret Wise Brown to determine which is correct. Please check back here soon for an update.

        -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

      • American Writers Museum says:

        Hi Cynthia,

        This post has now been corrected to reflect that Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny are not public domain. The Runaway Bunny was first published in 1942; Goodnight Moon was first published in 1947. As such, The Runaway Bunny will not enter the public domain until 1/1/2038, and Goodnight Moon will not enter the public domain until 1/1/2043.

        Thanks for helping us get the right information to everyone!

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Pam,

      I am not sure if there is a specifically compiled list of all books entering the public domain in 2023. You could try searching for something more specific through the Library of Congress, narrowing your search to only books published in the United States in 1927 – but there would need to be an associated search term. You can check out our blog on finding sources through the Library of Congress, if you need some pointers.
      You might also try reaching out to the Center for the Study of the Public Domain to see what resources they have available.
      Best of luck!
      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

  2. Pam Goodman says:

    Thanks for the additional information! I’m specifically looking to see if God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson is in the public domain. It was published in 1927, renewed in 1954. I’ll keep researching, thanks!

  3. Julie Clark says:

    If it’s in Public Domain then you can download a free don’t. Is this correct if so where can I download a free copy of these public domain books at?

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Julie,

      Since these works are newly in the public domain, you may need to search individually for works that you are interested in reading. A good place to start may be The Open Library, which allows you to borrow books online.

      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

    • Diane DesAutels says:

      You can download a free doc IF someone has legally digitized and posted one. Many lesser-known works have been in the public domain for some time, but have not yet been made available online. I hope you find the works you’re seeking.

  4. Diane DesAutels says:

    Did the copyright truly [lapse] for Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time? (There shouldn’t be an -s on Daughter, btw: “Truth is the daughter of time.”) I’m confused, since 1951 is significantly later than 1927, but I’d love to grab it if that’s legal now, since it is available via Gutenberg *Canada*.

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Diane,
      Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Based on more in-depth research, The Daughter of Time is not in public domain in the United States. In several other countries, it has entered public domain, hence the confusion. According to US copyright law, downloading a book from a website maintained outside the US, even where that work has been legally posted, is still piracy.
      We’ll make sure to edit this post to reflect this information. Thanks again!
      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

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