The US Public Domain Hasn’t Expanded Since 1998. That Changes Next Year.

Thousands of books, films, and music recordings from 1923 will enter the US public domain next year, meaning you’ll be able to download and share them freely.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Charlie Chaplin’s film The Pilgrim
  • Cecil B. DeMille’s film The 10 Commandments
  • e.e. cummings’s Tulips and Chimneys
  • Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis
  • Aldous Huxley’s Antic Hay

Pieces of culture that aren’t freely available tend to fade away into obscurity, but once something is in the public domain people have access to it, which in turn can bring it back to life. Here’s Glenn Fleishman, writing for The Atlantic:

In recent years, Google, libraries, the Internet Archive, and other institutions have posted millions of works in the public domain from 1922 and earlier. With lightning-fast ease, their entire contents are now as contemporary as news articles, and may show up intermingled in search results. More recent work, however, remains locked up. The distant past is more accessible than 10 or 50 years ago.

As of 2019 we’ll all have access to more of that distant past.

In early US history copyright only lasted 14 years, but that kept expanding over the years. This video, by CGP Grey, offers a decent outline of how that happened, if you’re curious.

Justin Pot is the News Editor for How-To Geek. He lives in Hillsboro, Oregon and runs the Hillsboro Signal, which offers local citizen journalism. Follow Justin on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.