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:
- 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 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)
- “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)
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.