Friday, December 31, 2021

The Public Domain Gets Louder

New Year's Day is a time for many to take stock of personal goals for the future. But January 1 also merits a look back to the past, as this year thousands of copyrighted works from 1926 will enter the public domain, along with hundreds of thousands of pre-1923 sound recordings. Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain outlines these exciting new additions at Public Domain Day 2022.

Books entering the U.S. public domain this year include early works by Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Langston Hughes, and Agatha Christie. Films starring the likes of Buster Keaton, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino will join them, along with compositions by George Gershwin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Irving Berlin. As noted at the Public Domain Day site, this year features the first major entry of sound recordings into the public domain, under the schedule created by Congress in the 2018 Music Modernization Act. (These older compositions were already in the public domain, but the individual performance recordings were still covered by various state laws until the federal act took effect.)

Works entering the public domain in 2022 will be freely accessible in sites like the Internet Archive, Google Books, and HathiTrust (which has set up a preview of 1926 Publications that will change from "Limited" to "Full" view), available for copying, republication, and adaptation without permissions or clearance fees.

While the continued expansion of the public domain is cause for celebration, the Public Domain Day website notes that under the laws that were in place prior to copyright term renewals in the late 20th century, the U.S. could be welcoming works from 1965 into the public domain this year. The Public Domain Review's "Festive Countdown" highlights some additional entries around the world in countries whose copyright scheme differs from the United States -- for example, while A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh enters the U.S. public domain this year, it was already in the public domain in countries with a "life of author plus 50 years" copyright term.

To learn more about copyright law and the public domain, check out some of the recommended readings at the Public Domain Day site, including the Center's FAQs. Additional resources on copyright law can be found in the library's research guide to Intellectual Property. For help locating treatises or public domain resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.