Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — New Year's Day is a holiday that holds a different meaning for fans of copyrights and creators who imagine a different world for the ideas originally posed through various novels, short stories, movies and music released in the past.
New Year's Day is often referred to as "Public Domain Day," as works of art published in the U.S. 95 years ago enter the public domain, a vault of ideas that no longer have intellectual property rights protection. That means items published in 1927 are now up for any sort of use or tweaking without fear of copyright infringement.
It's worth noting that some creative works after 1927 are in the domain but that's because those rights have either been waived, forfeited or simply expired.
It hasn't taken creators long to benefit from works of art entering the public domain in recent years, either. For instance, screenwriter and director Rhys Frake-Waterfield is set to release a horror film starring none other than Winnie the Pooh in 2023 because the book the character was introduced in entered the public domain in 2022. And in 2021, NPR's "Planet Money" podcast team published a reading of "Great Gatsby" in its entirety, well, simply because they could after the classic novel joined the public domain that year.
Frake-Waterfield, by the way, already announced that he intends on reimagining Bambi's story for another slasher flick, according to Screen Rant. "Bambi, A Life in the Woods" by Felix Salten, also entered the domain in 2022.
So what may be reimagined from the works of art entering the domain in 2023? Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain got to the bottom of this again, finding some of the more prominent creative works examples that will lose copyrights.
Here are 23 of the more notable items entering the field:
There are several famous authors who have new literary work heading into the public domain. But one that may stand out is "The Tower Treasure," the first of dozens of books featuring the mystery-solving Hardy Boys, written by various authors using the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon.
There's also the original French publication of "Le Temps retrouvé," which was the final installment of Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" series.
Other notables include:
- "Amerika," by Franz Kafka (originally published in German)
- "Men Without Women," by Ernest Hemingway
- "Mosquitoes," by William Faulkner
- "Now We Are Six," by A.A. Milne
- "The Big Four," by Agatha Christie
- "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes," by Arthur Conan Doyle
- "The Gangs of New York," by Herbert Asbury
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held its first-ever ceremony in 1929, judging films released between Aug. 1, 1927, and the first half of 1928. The first movie to win an Oscar for best picture? "Wings." The film, which starred Clara Bow, Charles Rogers and Richard Arlen, is now headed to the public domain.
"The Jazz Singer," which revolutionized the motion picture as we know it, is finally headed to the public domain, too. The musical is credited as the first movie to feature synchronized dialogue, marking the beginning of the end of the silent movie era.
Other notable films include:
- "Sunrise": Paste Magazine rated this film fourth on its list of best movies from the 1920s, published in 2021. It stars Janet Gaynor and George O'Brien.
- "Metropolis" is another classic from the 1920s, still holding up as the 116th-best-rated film ever on IMDB's Top 250.
- "The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog," the first of many thrillers Alfred Hitchcock would direct over his acclaimed career.
- "7th Heaven," also starring Gaynor. Director Damien Chazelle told Vulture in 2017 that the ending of his film "La La Land" was inspired by this 1927 classic.
There are quite a few classics headed to the public domain in 2023. This includes "Ice Cream (I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream)" by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll and Robert King, and Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz."
Duke University points out that while these compositions and lyrics are in the domain, many recordings are not. There are no new recordings headed to the public domain until 2024, which is when recordings from 1923 are added.
Here are some other gems in the public domain for 2023, though:
- "East St. Louis Toodle-O" by Bub Miley and Duke Ellington
- "Funny Face" by Ira and George Gershwin (from the musical "Funny Face")
- "Gully Low Blues" and "Potato Head Blues" by Louis Armstrong
- "Ol' Man River" by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern (from the musical "Show Boat")
- "The Best Things in Life Are Free" by George Gard De Sylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson (from the musical "Good News")