Highlights from Public Domain Day 2022

by Jessica Fuentes January 1, 2022

January 1st is an anticipated day for many reasons, but cultural enthusiasts look forward to it because literature, music, movies, works of art, and other copyrighted materials enter the public domain each New Year. This means that these works may be used freely, without obtaining permission from or compensating a copyright holder. This year we are welcoming literary, film, and art works from 1926, as well as a slew of sound recordings published before 1923. Here are some highlights that enter the public domain today.

Photograph of the book "Winnie the Pooh" by A. A. Milne. The book appears slim and the book cover is tan with dark writing. The bottom left corner has an illustration of a young boy and several rabbits attempting to pull a bear from an underground hole. The top right has an illustration of the bear floating in the sky, holding onto a ballon.

“Winnie – The – Pooh” by A. A. Milne.

From the literary arts, this year welcomes Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes, and Dorothy Parker’s first collection of poetry, Enough Rope

The Association for Recorded Sound Collections has estimated that 400,000 recordings will enter the public domain today, including Ethel Waters’ Down Home Blues, Bert Williams’  Nobody, Billy Murray’s Give My Regards to Broadway, and Sophie Tucker’s Some of These Days.

Film still from Buster Keaton's "Battling Buster." A black and white image of a boxer laying on the floor of the boxing ring with arms stretched out in front of him and legs in the air with his feet resting on the top rope. A man in a suit leans over the boxer. Another boxer can be seen watching in the background.

Film still from Buster Keaton’s “Battling Buster.”

Some significant films entering the public domain this year are Buster Keaton’s Battling Buster, The Temptress starring Greta Garbo, and Alan Crosland’s Don Juan, which was the first film to use the Vitaphone sound system. 

The U.S.’ public domain laws can be confusing to navigate because they relate to dates of publication rather than creation date or, as in many other countries, the amount of time passed since the creator’s death. In most of Europe, works are transferred to the public domain 70 years after the creator’s death. Notable artists who died in 1951, and whose work is now in the public domain in Europe, include American Impressionist painter Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951) and German painter and photographer Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, who used the pseudonym Wols (1913-1951). See examples of the artists’ work below, and click the links to explore the pieces in greater detail through Google Arts & Culture.

An impressionist style painting of a woman walking alongside a body of water. The woman is wearing a long, white, flowing dress with full sleeves and has one hand positioned at her hip and the other raised covering her face as she looks off into the distance. Painting by Frank W. Benson.

Frank W. Benson, “Sunlight,” 1909, Oil on canvas. Image: Google Arts & Culture.

Click to access on Google Arts & Culture.

An abstract painting using chaotic lines of red, black, maroon, and white at the center of a square canvas. The background appears more blurred and mostly white with other hues mixed in. The four corners of the painting have smudges of red paint. Artwork by Wols.

WOLS, “Regard halluciné,” 1946/7, Oil on canvas. Image: Google Arts & Culture

Click to access on Google Arts & Culture.

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