Public Domain Day 2023


It’s January 1, and that means another bunch of works have entered the public domain in the U.S. due to the expiration of the 95-year limit. Here are the notable works affected. Some were already out of copyright for various reasons, but now their public domain status is certain and they are beyond the reach of copyright squatters and whatnot.


Allan and the Ice-Gods, by H. Rider Haggard (a Quatermain story)
Amerika, by Franz Kafka
archy and mehitabel, by Don Marquis
Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster
Being and Time, by Martin Heidegger
Belphégor, by Arthur Bernède
The Big Four, by Agatha Christie
The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder
The Canary Murder Case, by S.S. Van Dine
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, by A. Conan Doyle
Cogewea, by Mourning Dove
Death Comes For the Archbishop, by Willa Cather
Dusty Answer, by Rosamond Lehmann
Elmer Gantry, by Sinclair Lewis
Flight Without End, by Joseph Roth
The Future of An Illusion, by Sigmund Freud
The Gnome-King of Oz, by Ruth Plumly Thompson
God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, by James Weldon Johnson
Kitty, by Warwick Deeping
The Lariat, by Jaime de Angulo
The Life of Klim Samgin, by Maxim Gorky
Main Currents In American Thought, by Vernon Louis Parrington
The Marvellous Land of Snergs, by E.A. Wyke-Smith
Meet Mr. Mulliner, by P.G. Wodehouse
Men Without Women, by Ernest Hemingway
The Midnight Folk, by John Masefield
Mosquitoes, by William Faulkner
Mr. Weston’s Good Wine, by T.F. Powys
Now We Are Six, by A.A. Milne
Oil!, by Upton Sinclair
The Outlaw of Torn, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Pomes Penyeach, by James Joyce
The President’s Daughter, by Nan Britton
The Rose of Cikembang, by Kwee Tek Hoay
Sir Percy Hits Back, by Baroness Orczy
Smoky the Cowhorse, by Will James
Something About Eve, by James Branch Cabell
Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse
Tarka the Otter, by Henry Williamson
Thérèse Desqueyroux, by François Mauriac
Time Regained, by Marcel Proust (final volume of In Search of Lost Time)
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
The Tower Treasure, by Leslie McFarlane (as Franklin W. Dixon) (first Hardy Boys story)+
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, by B. Traven
Tristram, by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Unnatural Death, by Dorothy L. Sayers

+Note: This applies only to the original 1927 edition. The book was extensively revised and reissued in 1959, and that is the edition sold today, which is still under copyright.

Short Stories:

“The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”, by A. Conan Doyle+
“The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger”, by A. Conan Doyle+
“Another Wife” by Sherwood Anderson
“The Colour Out of Space”, by H.P. Lovecraft
“Good Morning Major” by J.P. Marquand
“The Green Meadow”, by H.P. Lovecraft & Winifred V. Jackson
“The Half-Pint Flask” by DuBose Heyward
“Hills Like White Elephants”, by Ernest Hemingway
“The Horror At Red Hook”, by H.P. Lovecraft
“Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit”, by P.G. Wodehouse
“A Jury of Her Peers”, by Susan Glaspell
“The Killers”, by Ernest Hemingway
“Man On Pink Corner”, by Jorge Luis Borges
“Maskee” by Edward Paynter
“Miss Sophia’s Diary”, by Ding Ling
“The New Dress”, by Virginia Woolf
“Paradise Regained” by Harold W. Brecht
“The Passenger”, by Vladimir Nabokov
“Pickman’s Model”, by H.P. Lovecraft
“The Right Honorable the Strawberries” by Owen Wister
“The Stoker”, by Franz Kafka
“The Woman He Loved” by Edward J. Doherty
“The World’s End”, by Agatha Christie

+These were the last two stories of the A. Conan Doyle Holmes canon, and with them the whole thing is now in the public domain in the U.S.


The Five O’Clock Girl, by Guy Bolton & Fred Thompson, music by Harry Ruby & Bert Kalmar
Flight, by Mikhail Bulgakov
Funny Face, by Fred Thompson & Paul Gerard Smith, music by the Gershwins
Hit the Deck, by Herbert Fields, music by Vincent Youmans, Clifford Grey & Leo Robin
In the Jungle of Cities, by Bertolt Brecht
The Letter, by W. Somerset Maugham
Paris Bound, by Philip Barry
Porgy, by DuBose Heyward & Dorothy Heyward
Rio Rita, by Guy Bolton & Fred Thompson, music by Harry Tierney & Joseph McCarthy
The Royal Family, by George S. Kaufman & Edna Ferber
Show Boat, by Oscar Hammerstein II, music by Oscar Hammerstein II & Jerome Kern
The Trial of Mary Dugan, by Bayard Veiller


7th Heaven (dir. Frank Borzage)
College (Buster Keaton)
Downhill (Hitchcock)
Flesh and the Devil starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert
The Gaucho starring Douglas Fairbanks
The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson - first sound picture in general release
“The Kid Brother” - Harold Lloyd short
King of Kings (DeMille)
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Hitchcock)
The Loves of Carmen starring Dolores Del Rio and Victor McLaglen
Madame Pompadour starring Dorothy Gish
Metropolis (Fritz Lang)
The Patent Leather Kid starring Richard Barthelmess
The Red Mill (dir. Roscoe Arbuckle)
The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (Ernst Lubitsch)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau)
Tillie the Toiler starring Marion Davies
Two Arabian Knights (dir. Lewis Milestone)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin - James B. Lowe, one of the first starring roles by a black actor in a feature film
The Unknown starring Lon Chaney
The Way of All Flesh starring Emil Jannings, first Best Actor Oscar performance
West Point starring Joan Crawford
“Why Girls Love Sailors” - Laurel & Hardy short
Wings - first Best Picture winner

In animated cartoons, all 1927 Felix the Cat cartoons (which were still under copyright) are now public domain. Disney’s final Alice comedies (only 4 of which survive from 1927) are in the clear, along with Disney’s first 9 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons.


“Ain’t She Sweet” (Yellen/Ager)
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (Turk/Handman)
“At Sundown” (Donaldson)
“The Best Things In Life Are Free” (De Sylva/Brown/Henderson)
“Blue Skies” (Berlin)
“Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Hammerstein/Kern)
“Diane” (Rapee/Pollack)
“Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong” (Raskin/Rose/Fisher)
“Funny Face” (Gershwin/Gershwin)
“I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover” (Dixon/Woods)
“Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella” (Kahal/Wheeler/Fain)
“Let’s Kiss And Make Up” (Gershwin/Gershwin)
“Me And My Shadow” (Dreyer/Rose/Jolson)
“Miss Annabelle Lee” (Pollack/Clare/Richman)
“Mississippi Mud” (Cavanaugh/Barris)
“My Blue Heaven” (Whiting/Donaldson)
“My One And Only” (Gershwin/Gershwin)
“Ol’ Man River” (Hammerstein/Kern)
“A Room with a View” (Coward)
“'S Wonderful” (Gershwin/Gershwin)
“Side By Side” (Woods)
“Strike Up The Band” (Gershwin/Gershwin)
“Thou Swell” (Hart/Rodgers)
“The Varsity Drag” (De Sylva/Brown/Henderson)

Classical music:

Arcana (Varese)
The Fiery Angel (opera by Prokofiev)
Oedipus Rex (Stravinsky)
Piano Concerto (Copland)
The Red Poppy (ballet by Gliere)
String Quartet No. 3 (Bartok)
String Quartet No. 3 (Schoenberg)
Symphony No. 2 (Shostakovich)


Apparatus and Hand, by Salvador Dali
Automat, by Edward Hopper
Black Abstraction, by Georgia O’Keeffe
The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats, by Rex Whistler
The Menaced Assassin, by Rene Magritte
Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, by Ansel Adams
Reclining Nude, Back, by Henri Matisse
The Wood, by Max Ernst


Cool. I love the Jeeves stories. I was wondering of any became newly free.

Also a fan of H. Rider Haggard. Glad to see one of his Quatermain books on the list.


‘Like’ for spelling ‘Quatermain’ correctly!


For Felix The Cat, it should be noted that a lot of what we know about Felix today, like the magic bag, comes from the 1950s cartoon, which is NOT public domain.

If my math is right, just two more years until Popeye is public domain. Olive Oyl, debuting earlier, has been in the public domain for some time.


…and now I’m thinking of the Overly Sarcastic Productions video on Hates People Lovecraft. (Their joke, not mine)


It’s indescribable!


Fan fiction? researching … whoa, it really is


Yeah, the law was a bit more free with derivative media back in the day. Then it got ruined. Still MST3K managed to get on the air.


Ruth Plumly Thompson was authorized by Baum’s publisher to write Oz books. She wrote 19 of them up until 1939, and then two more in the 1970s before she died.

L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson is still turning out Oz books today.


Otherwise known as the people that own something that someone else really wants for free.


Or people who claim to own something and really don’t, but rely on being paid off in order to avoid litigation. That’s a frequent issue with works that actually are in the public domain.


Songwriter and chess king spokesmodel gets a big fat royalty check.



So feasibly Studio Ghibli could reboot Sherlock Hound now without issue?


I love Public Domain Day. Thanks for posting this!

I just finished listening to Stuff You Missed in History Class’s episode on Irving Berlin, and then lo and behold The Jazz Singer and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” appear again in my life the next day.


Metropolis? Woot!

How long before the Maschinenmensch turns up in the MCU?


But likely trademarked, and those don’t expire.


I’m looking forward to the guano insanity that will undoubtedly ensue when Steamboat Willie finally enters the public domain.


January 1st, 2024, i.e. next year.


Disney lawyer’s will still be going over any uses of public domain Mickey to make sure it doesn’t infringe in the slightest way. If he talks, it can’t be with a falsetto voice (that didn’t happen until 1929), no gloves allowed (also 1929) and if you color Mickey, those shorts better not be red (that didn’t happen until 1935).


The only thing that happens next January 1 when Steamboat Willie, Gallopin’ Gaucho and Plane Crazy go into PD (unless Disney’s lawyers get there first and get Congress to extend the term) is that those cartoons can be freely shown and used without royalty payments to Disney. Mickey Mouse is trademarked, and nobody will be able to use him outside the context of those cartoons (and The Mad Doctor, which was already in PD).

Even advertising for those shorts will have to use only still images of Mickey taken from the cartoons themselves.

The same is unfortunately true of Sherlock Holmes… you can do whatever you want with any of the Doyle stories, but Sherlock himself is trademarked so you can’t do anything else with the character without a license from the Doyle estate.