Public Domain Day 2024

It’s New Year’s Day, and that means another tranche of works pass into the public domain. This time, it’s all creative works from 1928.

Some of these had already fallen into the PD, but now they are indisputably free to use and beyond the reach of even the most obnoxious copyright squatters.


Beggars of Life (Wallace Beery, Louise Brooks)
The Cameraman (Buster Keaton)
The Circus (Charlie Chaplin)
The Docks of New York
The Fall of the House of Usher (dir. James Sibley Watson)
Four Sons (dir. John Ford)
Gallopin’ Gaucho (Mickey Mouse; original silent version only)
A Girl In Every Port (dir. Howard Hawks)
Habeas Corpus (Laurel & Hardy)
In Old Arizona
The Last Command
Laugh, Clown, Laugh (Lon Chaney)
Lilac Time
The Man Who Laughs
The Matinee Idol (dir. Frank Capra)
Our Dancing Daughters
Plane Crazy (Mickey Mouse; original silent version only)
The Power of the Press
Sadie Thompson
The Singing Fool (Al Jolson)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Buster Keaton)
Steamboat Willie (Mickey Mouse)
Street Angel
Tempest (John Barrymore)
We Faw Down (Laurel & Hardy)
West of Zanzibar
While the City Sleeps
White Shadow in the South Seas


The Mystery of the Blue Train, by Agatha Christie
Break of Day, by Colette
Hunting For Hidden Gold (Hardy Boys) by Franklin W. Dixon (original version only)
A Mirror For Witches, by Esther Forbes
Last Post, by Ford Madox Ford
The Eternal Moment and Other Stories, by E.M. Forster
The Life of Klim Samgin, by Maxim Gorky
The Silver Flame, by James Hilton
Point Counter Point, by Aldous Huxley
The Twelve Chairs, by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov
Belle de Jour, by Joseph Kessel
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
Ashenden, by W. Somerset Maugham
Lord Peter Views the Body, by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers
Wintersmoon, by Hugh Walpole
Decline and Fall, by Evelyn Waugh
Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island, by H.G. Wells
Orlando: A Biography, by Virginia Woolf
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne
Bambi, by Felix Salten
John Brown’s Body, by Stephen Vincent Benet
West-Running Brook, by Robert Frost
An American Comedy (autobiography), by Harold Lloyd


The Threepenny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht
The Sacred Flame, by W. Somerset Maugham
Strange Interlude, by Eugene O’Neill
Animal Crackers (Marx Brothers, play - not the movie)
Present Arms (Rodgers & Hart)
Rosalie (Gershwin play)
The Front Page (Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur)
The New Moon (Romberg musical)

Among short stories, it should be pointed out that H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” and “Cool Air” are included.

Songs (but not recordings):

“Alabama Song” (Brecht/Weill)
“Basin Street Blues” (Williams)
“Big Rock Candy Mountain” (McClintock)
“Bill” (Wodehouse/Hammerstein/Kern)
“Blue Yodel” (Rodgers)
“Button Up Your Overcoat” (DeSylva/Brown/Henderson)
“Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Kern/Hammerstein)
“Carolina Moon” (Davis/Burke)
“Coquette” (Kahn/Lombardo/Green)
“Crazy Rhythm” (Caesar/Meyer/Kahn)
“Glad Rag Doll” (Dougherty/Ager)
“Hooray For Captain Spaulding” (Kalmar/Ruby)
“How Long Has This Been Going On?” (Gershwins)
“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” (Fields/McHugh)
“I Wanna Be Loved By You” (Kalmar/Ruby/Stothart)
“Let’s Do It” (Porter)
“Love Me Or Leave Me” (Kahn/Donaldson)
“Mack the Knife” (Brecht/Weill)
“Make Believe” (Kern/Hammerstein)
“Makin’ Whoopee” (Kahn/Donaldson)
“Malaguena” (Lecuona)
“My Mammy” (Donaldson/Young/Lewis)
“Nagasaki” (Dixon/Warren)
“Pirate Jenny” (Brecht/Weill)
“Statesboro Blues” (McTell)
“St. James Infirmary” (Primrose)
“When You’re Smiling” (Fisher/Goodwin/Shay)
“You Took Advantage of Me” (Rodgers/Hart)
“You’re the Cream In my Coffee” (DeSylva/Brown/Henderson)

Classical music works:

String Quartet #4 (Bartok)
Bolero (Ravel)
An American In Paris (Gershwin)
Symphony #3 (Prokofiev)
Die ägyptische Helena (Opera, Richard Strauss)


I’ve heard that Steamboat Willie is into some really bad activities today.


RiffTrax posted this:


Well, I’ve only seen 2 of the movies on that list, the two Laurel & Hardy ones.

I’ve only read one of the books. I went through a Somerset Maugham phase a couple decades ago and read several of his books and short stories, Ashenden included. I did once try reading Tarzan, but never got all the way through it.

Of the songs, there are only five I could not immediately sing or hum. I’m curious though why the musical play Showboat and two of its songs were on last year’s public domain list, but three more songs from it just made the list this year.

Both plays were on Broadway at the same time, which is why there is this bit in the latter –



Tell me more, please, about this Lady Chatterly and her lover.

Dean Craig Pelton GIFs | Tenor


I’m surprised you haven’t seen Steamboat Bill, Jr. or Steamboat Willie, for that matter.

Also, The Man Who Laughs has major significance. Conrad Veidt’s appearance in that film inspired the look of a very famous supervillain.


The musical opened on December 27, 1927, so it’s kind of an edge case. Those songs might have been individually published in 1928, but their PD date would be when they were first published as part of the score, so yeah, they were PD last year.


I know what it means!

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I’m just kind of neutral on Buster Keaton. I know he is regarded as a comedy genius. I’ve seen The General. It was okay, but didn’t raise a desire in me to see more.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve definitely been more of a Warner Bros. cartoons fan than a Disney cartoons fan. Mickey Mouse seemed like pretty weak kid stuff compared to the craziness that happened in WB cartoons.


When sound cartoons began, almost all the studios (including WB) were sold on them as a way to promote their libraries of popular songs. Each cartoon was basically a music video with sight gags added. Disney didn’t own a song library (until they built their own), so their cartoons had to rely on story and on animation quality. When Disney started winning Oscars for their cartoons other studios started trying to follow suit with cutesy-animal cartoons.

All the WB cartoons were made by Disney veterans Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, with their main character Bosko, until they struck out on their own in 1933. WB (Leon Schlesinger, actually) flailed for a while trying to recapture the magic, until they eventually said “screw it” and started making cartoons that were intended to win laughs rather than statuettes. Bugs Hardaway and Bob Clampett started that trend and then Tex Avery really ran away with it when he came aboard in 1935.


That’s fine, justifiable in both cases. It was just surprising to me. To put it in Laurel and Hardy terms, I would have been equally surprised if you had said you had seen Steamboat Bill, Jr. but hadn’t seen The Music Box.

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When I was a kid, Mickey was in a period of not being used very much. The Mickey Mouse Club had ended (it was still in reruns when I was extremely little) and there weren’t that many places to see him, so he was mainly an advertising logo at that time.


And, Ub Iwerks, who created Mickey Mouse, ended up getting contracted by Schlesinger at WB to do some Porky Pig shorts.

Iwerks had his own studio in the 30s, where Chuck Jones got his start.

Iwerks also invented a huge amount of the technology used by cel animators.


There was a time when Mickey was the world’s most famous cartoon character despite most kids never having seen one of his cartoons. When I was a kid you might see a few occasionally on The Wonderful World of Disney or the Mickey Mouse Club reruns, but even then Disney kept their cartoon library locked up tighter than Fort Knox.


Yep. I was lucky enough to see the Mickey shorts in the public library and in my dad’s film studies department’s library if someone was willing to thread a projector for me, but that wasn’t exactly seeing them regularly on TV.

Still, Mickey has just never been funny. He is in some funny cartoons, but he is not funny in them. I think The Band Concert is a brilliant cartoon and every single character in it is very funny… except Mickey. It’s kind of impressive in its own weird way.


Mickey was always the straight man, except in some of his very earliest cartoons.


Yeah, and he isn’t funny in those either.

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He didn’t have to be. The whole audience was sitting there goggle-eyed going “Listen to that! Sooooouuuuunnnnnd!”

I don’t recall if Mickey even spoke a single discernible word in Steamboat Willie.


I believe he does not. In fact, the only words I can recall being spoken are Minnie saying a barely-intelligible, “yoo-hoo, Mickey!”


Missed this earlier. I can’t say I love the idea of riffing Steamboat Willie. I don’t know, it feels like doing some riffing because you can and not because there’s a reason for a group that’s tagline is “some movies have it coming” to justify riffing.

I don’t consider Steamboat Willie a sacred cow or anything like that. Quite the opposite. It’s the Starfighters problem. It’s just boring. It’s a mediocre early sound cartoon and there’s zero indication whatsoever that it would become the one of the most recognizable characters on the planet. Apart from its historical significance, there’s just nothing special about it. Steamboat Willie doesn’t have it coming because Steamboat Willie doesn’t try hard enough to have it coming.

As @AndrewCrossett said, sound had just begun. All they had to do was impress the audience with the noises.