It’s been 20 years since a large swathe of films, books and songs have come of age to find their way into the public domain. Though some works may have lapsed if their copyright wasn’t renewed correctly, January 1, 2019, marked the first time in two decades that an entire year-worth of artistic production became free and open to the public.
The lapse in public domain content occurred after Congress decided in 1998 to extend copyright protections by 20 years, meaning that everything that was supposed to enter the public domain in 1999 under past law didn’t. The delay has made it so that more than 53,000 pieces of content (movies, literature, art, music and more) from 1923 are just now becoming free and accessible.
Unfortunately, because of the long gap between original publication and entrance into the public domain, a lot of content has been lost to deterioration over time, according to Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. But there are still exciting titles that are suddenly available to anyone who wants to access or use them.
Not only can they be taught in the classroom or performed without getting rights, but they can also be fodder for new adaptations in the 21st century. So look out for a lot of flappers and bootlegging in your upcoming arts diet; chances are creators will be taking advantage of this treasure trove of public domain content.
And if you’re interested in looking into all of this yourself, here’s a list of some of the titles that all became part of the public domain as of January 1, 2019, courtesy of Duke University:
- Safety Last!
- The Ten Commandments
- Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim
- Our Hospitality
- The Covered Wagon
- Tarzan and the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
- The World Crisis by Winston S. Churchill
- Tulips and Chimneys by e.e. cummings
- New Hampshire by Robert Frost
- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
- Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley
- Kangaroo by D.H. Lawrence
- The Prospects of Industrial Civilization by Bertrand and Dora Russell
- Rootabaga Pigeons by Carl Sandberg
- A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
- The Inimitable Jeeves and Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse
- Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf