In Brief:  On January 1 of each year, some copyrighted works fall into the public domain. That means, they are free for use, copying and as a basis for derivative works. Works created before 1928 are now in the public domain. Thousands of works spanning all copyright categories make up the Public Domain Class of 2024. Members of the Public Domain Class of 2024 have cultural significance spanning from the Harlem Renaissance to feminist literature and represent advances in free expression. Here are some notable graduates. 

Books and Plays

· D.H Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover

· Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera (in the original German, Die Dreigroschenoper)

· Virginia Woolf, Orlando

· Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (in the original German, Im Westen nichts Neues)

· W.E.B. Du Bois, Dark Princess

· A. Milne, illustrations by E. H. Shepard, House at Pooh Corner (introducing the Tigger character)

· J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (it was an earlier play but was not "published" for copyright purposes until 1928)

· Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train

· Wanda Gág, Millions of Cats (the oldest American picture book still in print)

· Robert Frost, West-Running Brook

· Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page (Eventually made into the move, His Girl Friday, starring Rosalind Russel and Cary Grant as the fast talking journalists solving a murder mystery).


· Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy (the silent version) (directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks; A chance to see beloved Mickey Mouse in his earliest incarnation. But, beware, Disney still owns a lot of copyrights and trademarks related to Mickey.

· The Cameraman (directed by Edward Sedgwick and Buster Keaton; One of many films by Buster Keaton which demonstrates his genius and the transformation of film as an artform)

· Lights of New York (directed by Bryan Foy; billed as “the first ‘all-talking’ picture”)

· The Circus (directed by Charlie Chaplin)

· The Passion of Joan of Arc (directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer; Still considered a classic of storytelling on film.)

· In Old Arizona (“100% all talking” film featuring singing cowboys)

· Should Married Men Go Home? (directed by Leo McCarey and James Parrott; the first Laurel and Hardy film to bill them as a team)

· The Wedding March (directed by Erich von Stroheim)

· The Crowd (directed by King Vidor)

· The Last Command (directed by Josef von Sternberg; Emil Jannings won the first Academy Award for Best Actor)

· Street Angel (directed by Frank Borzage; Janet Gaynor won the first Academy Award for Best Actress)

Musical Compositions

· Animal Crackers (musical starring the Marx Brothers; book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind and lyrics and music by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby)

· Mack the Knife (original German lyrics by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill; from The Threepenny Opera; In 1959, Bobby Darrin recorded it and it became a big hit for him)

· Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) (Cole Porter; from the musical Paris)

· Sonny Boy (George Gard DeSylva, Lew Brown & Ray Henderson; from the film The Singing Fool starring Al Jolson)

· When You're Smiling (lyrics by Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin and music by Larry Shay)

· I Wanna Be Loved By You (lyrics by Bert Kalmar and music by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby; from the musical Good Boy)

· Makin’ Whoopee! (lyrics by Gus Khan and music by Walter Donaldson)

· I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby (lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by James Francis)

Sound Recordings

· Charleston (recorded by James P. Johnson)

· Yes! We Have No Bananas (recorded by Billy Jones; Furman and Nash; Eddie Cantor; Belle Baker; The Lanin Orchestra)

· Who’s Sorry Now (recorded by Lewis James; The Happy Six; the Original Memphis Five)

· Down Hearted Blues (recorded by Bessie Smith; Tennessee Ten)

· Southern Blues and Moonshine Blues (recorded by Ma Rainey)

· Wolverine Blues (recorded by the Benson Orchestra of Chicago)

· Tin Roof Blues (recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings)

Why do we honor Public Domain Day? Copyright protection lasts a long time. That’s great for the artists and authors. But, while a work is covered by copyright, the owner has the right to restrict the copying, distribution, performance and use of the work as a basis for derivative works. Once a work goes into the public domain, it becomes a new source for creativity with no strings attached. There’s a lot of historic evidence that availability of works as source material sparks creativity. Shakespeare is a good example. From Hamlet, we have Lion King. From Romeo and Juliet we have West Side Story. From The Taming of the Shrew we have Kiss Me Kate and The 10 Things I Hate About You.

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