January 1st of 2019 marked the first day on which a plethora of titles originally published in 1923 will finally enter the public domain, (meaning they can be used for free and without permission) after Congress extended the copyright term for an additional twenty years when they were originally supposed to be released in 1999. Here we look at some of the highlights.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
January 1st was Public Domain Day 2019, the first day that a host of titles originally published in 1923 are now available to use for free and without permission. These include literary works, music and movies. Originally the works from 1923 were set to go into the public domain in 1999 after a 75-year copyright term, but Congress extended the term for 20 more years.
The HathiTrust has made over 50,000 titles from 1923 available in its digital library. The new ones from 1923 include:
- Yes! We Have No Bananas, by Frank Silver & Irving Cohn (that’s one that must be on everyone’s list to use)
- Charleston, by Cecil Mack & James P. Johnson (will the dance craze return?)
- London Calling! (musical), by Noel Coward (not The Clash)
- Who’s Sorry Now, w. Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby, m. Ted Snyder
- Songs by “Jelly Roll” Morton including Grandpa’s Spells, The Pearls, and Wolverine Blues (w. Benjamin F. Spikes & John C. Spikes; m. Ferd “Jelly Roll” Morton)
- Works by Bela Bartok including the Violin Sonata No. 1 and the Violin Sonata No. 2
- Tin Roof Blues, m. Leon Roppolo, Paul Mares, George Brunies, Mel Stitzel, and Benny Pollack
- Safety Last!, directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, featuring Harold Lloyd
- The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. DeMille
- The Pilgrim, directed by Charlie Chaplin
- Our Hospitality, directed by Buster Keaton and John G. Blystone
- The Covered Wagon, directed by James Cruze
- Scaramouche, directed by Rex Ingram
- Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the Golden Lion
- Agatha Christie, The Murder on the Links
- Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis
- e.e. cummings, Tulips and Chimneys
- Robert Frost, New Hampshire
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
- Aldous Huxley, Antic Hay
- D.H. Lawrence, Kangaroo
- Bertrand and Dora Russell, The Prospects of Industrial Civilization
- Carl Sandburg, Rootabaga Pigeons
- P.G. Wodehouse, works including The Inimitable Jeeves and Leave it to Psmith
- Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room
The problem is that just because a title is legally available doesn’t mean that it’s physically available since many of the works are now in poor condition, a byproduct of the long copyright period. Sometimes what seems to be a good idea doesn’t always work out that way.
There’s more about the new public domain works at Duke University’s Center For The Study Of Public Domain.