Public Domain Day 2022

From The Duke University School of Law:

In 2022, the public domain will welcome a lot of “firsts”: the first Winnie-the-Pooh book from A. A. Milne, the first published novels from Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, the first books of poems from Langston Hughes and Dorothy Parker. What’s more, for the first time ever, thanks to a 2018 law called the Music Modernization Act, a special category of works—sound recordings—will finally begin to join other works in the public domain. On January 1 2022, the gates will open for all of the recordings that have been waiting in the wings. Decades of recordings made from the advent of sound recording technology through the end of 1922—estimated at some 400,000 works—will be open for legal reuse.

. . . .

Why celebrate the public domain? When works go into the public domain, they can legally be shared, without permission or fee. That is something Winnie-the-Pooh would appreciate. Community theaters can screen the films. Youth orchestras can perform the music publicly, without paying licensing fees. Online repositories such as the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and Google Books can make works fully available online. This helps enable access to cultural materials that might otherwise be lost to history. 1926 was a long time ago. The vast majority of works from 1926 are out of circulation. When they enter the public domain in 2022, anyone can rescue them from obscurity and make them available, where we can all discover, enjoy, and breathe new life into them.

The public domain is also a wellspring for creativity. The whole point of copyright is to promote creativity, and the public domain plays a central role in doing so. Copyright law gives authors important rights that encourage creativity and distribution—this is a very good thing. But it also ensures that those rights last for a “limited time,” so that when they expire, works go into the public domain, where future authors can legally build on the past—reimagining the books, making them into films, adapting the songs and movies. That’s a good thing too! As explained in a New York Times editorial:

When a work enters the public domain it means the public can afford to use it freely, to give it new currency . . . [public domain works] are an essential part of every artist’s sustenance, of every person’s sustenance.

Just as Shakespeare’s works have given us everything from 10 Things I Hate About You and Kiss Me Kate (from The Taming of the Shrew) to West Side Story (from Romeo and Juliet), who knows what the works entering the public domain in 2022 might inspire? As with Shakespeare, the ability to freely reimagine these works may spur a range of creativity, from the serious to the whimsical, and in doing so allow the original artists’ legacies to endure.

. . . .


  • A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, decorations by E. H. Shepard
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • Dorothy Parker, Enough Rope (her first collection of poems)
  • Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues
  • T. E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (later adapted into the film Lawrence of Arabia)
  • Felix Salten, Bambi, A Life in the Woods
  • Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam
  • Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • Edna Ferber, Show Boat
  • William Faulkner, Soldiers’ Pay (his first novel)
  • Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy
  • D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent
  • H. L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy

. . . .

Movies Entering the Public Domain

  • For Heaven’s Sake (starring Harold Lloyd)
  • Battling Butler (starring Buster Keaton)
  • The Son of the Sheik (starring Rudolph Valentino)
  • The Temptress (starring Greta Garbo)
  • Moana (docufiction filmed in Samoa)
  • Faust (German expressionist classic)
  • So This Is Paris (based on the play Le Réveillon)
  • Don Juan (first feature-length film to use the Vitaphone sound system)
  • The Cohens and Kellys (prevailed in a famous copyright lawsuit)
  • The Winning of Barbara Worth (a Western, known for its flood scene)

Musical Compositions

  • Bye Bye Black Bird (Ray Henderson, Mort Dixon)
  • Snag It (Joseph ‘King’ Oliver)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Irving Berlin)
  • Black Bottom Stomp (Ferd ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton)
  • Someone To Watch Over Me (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin)
  • Nessun Dorma from Turandot (Giacomo Puccini, Franco Alfano, Giusseppe Adami, Renato Simoni)
  • Are You Lonesome To-Night (Roy Turk, Lou Handman)
  • When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along (Harry Woods)
  • Ke Kali Nei Au (“Waiting For Thee”) (Charles E. King), in 1958 renamed Hawaiian Wedding Song with new lyrics (English) by Hoffman & Manning
  • Cossack Love Song (Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, George Gershwin, Herbert Stothart)

Link to the rest at The Duke University School of Law

23 thoughts on “Public Domain Day 2022”

  1. I would note that, at the very least, Westside Story would have had no issues with “copying” Romeo and Juliet, even if the latter had been protected. The central plot was already ancient when Bill first applied his quill to paper.

    Actually, just about all of his works can be traced to writings by authors that were more than 700 years dead by the time he came along, not just 70. His genius was in updating them to make them accessible to contemporary audiences. (The same could be said of Jerome Robbins treatment of the same ancient theme.)

  2. A windfall for Amazon. They get to sell all the books, and keep the money.
    Any reason they should allow anyone else to sell the same book on their platform?

        • I spent decades tracking down all of Verne(pre internet) in hardback, and now there they are for two bucks.

          Haggard, O. Henry, etc…, I have all of those in hard to read, small print, paper books, yet there they are as ebooks. I never bothered to look. Yikes!

          Thanks for the links.

          • I need to reconsider my comment.

            In going through the list of books contained in the Amazon link, I have already opened 57 tabs, slowing my system down to a crawl, and I am clearly doomed.

            There is enough fiction to read that it will take me decades to work through it.

            Curse you Felix. You have destroyed me. HA!

            • Well, you *can* get them for free via Gutenberg.
              70,000 classics, I think.

              As for Verne, if I wanted to mess with you I would link you to the miller 21st century translations. 😀

              “This special edition of Jules Verne’s classic novel corrects more than 3000 errors in the original 1872 English translation and replaces the 23% of text that had been expurgated by the original translator for political, ideological and other reasons.”

              • I have the book, Jules Verne and his Work by I.O. Evans. Got it as a kid. I tracked down the Fitzroy editions, in mass market, then in hardback. The hardbacks were available through one book publisher that reprinted most of his books. They had them in their warehouse for decades. I started in the 70s, I finally got the last ones in the 90s before the distribution market collapsed. I didn’t find Light at the Edge of the World until about ten years ago.

                As each new cleaned up edition appeared, 20,000 Leagues, The Meteor Hunt, showed up I would get them.

                I spent all that time finding what were essentially butchered editions. Evans turned them into “Juvenile” novels for political reason. They had to minimize Verne to show that Wells was greater.

                All the Verne is sitting in the original French on Gutenberg, but I have yet to learn French. I spent three months on Duolingo trying to learn French and never got anywhere.

                I’ll have to try again.


      • Added a\value for whom?

        I suppose that might depend on how much they make by allowing only their copy and keeping 100%, compared to how much they make from the 30% they get by allowing others. I suspect a token number of formatters would be allowed.

        We often hear about the frustrated creatives whose artistic expression is curtailed by their inability to use the other guy’s work to make a buck. But, we rarely hear about the goldmine offered to the guys with the sales and distribution channels in place.

        And just for fun, how about offering the eBook for free? Or sell only Amazon’s version and donate the proceeds to cancer research?

        • Added value for everybody:
          – at the typical prices, Amazon gets 50% for distribution, TTS, and cloud storage,
          – the publisher gets 50% for assembling and differentiating the file
          – the customer pays a modest price for a clean edition in better shape than the typical Gutenberg edition, with TTS and cloud storage on Amazon servers.

          What’s objectionable?
          The material is available elsewhere for free (sometimes even on Amazon) if the customer doesn’t care about things like omnibus editions with hyperlinked TOCs, proof reading, quality illustrations, and (often) author bios.

          And just because the source is PD doesn’t mean the finished product needs to be.

          Amazon does have guidelines for PD content:

          • In good capitalist fashion quite a few publishers make decent coin this way:


            You ever hear of the BLACKMASK online ebook repository?
            It used to offer free downloads and CD/DVD PD ebook collections at very good prices until Cibde Nast sued them out of business over some Street and Smith pulp files they claimed to own.

            The rest of the collection (very nice files in all major formats) still shows up on ebay at good prices from time to time, usually from the UK. IIRC, it was up to 25,000 titles last time I got it.

            It is usually fair game to sell PD content.
            Amazon is neither first nor only.
            Penguin used to make massive money that way. Still does, just not as much; mostly to folks who haven’t heard of Gutenberg, Feedbooks, Mobileread, and other ebook repositories, or who insist on dead tree pulp.

          • Nothing is objectionable. But, we may as well recognize all the opportunities public domain presents.

            I agree lots of material is available for free. Gutenberg does that. But that availability comes with higher transaction costs than one encounters using Amazon. Much of the entire networking effect is based on transaction costs.

            Didn’t Amazon cause a great uproar among the formatters about ten years back when it curtailed formatted PD books? I forget the details, but the howling was quite good.

            • What I remember was the opposite.
              They kicked out the unformatted and identicals. That why the rules now require uniqueness:

              “Differentiated works are unique. They meet one or more of these requirements:

              Translated: Unique translations
              Annotated: Unique annotations (additional content like study guides, literary critiques, detailed biographies, or historical context)
              Illustrated: 10 or more unique illustrations relevant to the book”

              • Yes. I think they also kicked out the books that were formatted, but with no additional or unique content. The format was not considered content.

                So, their catalog didn’t have the exact same words in multiple books, where only the pitch of the dropped caps differed.

  3. For those that might be interested, it is possible to download all the basic Project Gutenberg files into your own offline repository and clean them up with the GutenMark “prettifier” freeware.

    A long time ago I did.
    It took two weeks of PC runtime to create my own collections in Mobi, epub, and MSReader format for my old POCKETBOOK eReader. Gutenberg has grown a lot since then and PCs are much faster so I might redo the drill one of these centuries.
    Just ’cause…

    (Still think public libraries are… less than wise… for not doing it and offering these ebooks on free DVDs, if nothing else, to all comers.)

    • Ooh, I did not know about this service. I’ll have to check it out. I use Sigil whenever I need to fix up Gutenberg files, or the books I have on CD from Baen (Eric Flint made some weird formatting choices in a Telzey Amberdon anthology). The only downside is that I risk seeing plot spoilers.

      Usually I just try to search for publishers who do proper reprints of public domain stories (think, or if it’s a classic I look for the Oxford Press version (the British counterpart of Penguin, and their ebooks are sometimes cheaper than Penguin’s).

        • He does indeed! I’d even go for an anime adaptation, like the one for Valerian & Laureline.

          I don’t know if there’s a specific name for the sub-genre Telzey falls into, but I thought of her and Trigger’s stories as the sci-fi equivalent of sword & sorcery (Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser, Conan, etc), where you have “adventures of the week.” I like that type.

          • Adventure SF.
            Halfway between idea SF and Space Opera.
            Very popular in the 50’s and 60’s before the genre grew “respectable”. 😀
            (ACE Doubles mined it.)
            Norton, Farmer, Dickson, Anderson, Chandler, Laumer, Piper, all played there.
            (Witch World, Retief, Hokas, Flandry, etc)
            Most had future histories as a framework for their series, usually for shorts and novellas for the magazines.

            Asimov tried a magazine for that subgenre in the late 70’s.
            (Note the snotty description:

            Schmidt was among the very best and most prolific.

  4. I know back in the day (late 90s/early 00’s) Dover books were really good/big into reprints and royalty free artwork. Still got about a dozen editions floating around the house.

    Cheap books for cheap thrills, cheap knowledge and endless expansion of the mind.

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