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On January 1st, 2022, works that were published in 1926 entered the public domain. As a result, certain literary works could be redistributed, reused, and displayed without regard for licensure or ownership. This year’s entries into the public domain, however, are very noteworthy for they have some notable inclusions such as:
- Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises
- Agatha Christie’s novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
- A selection of music recorded prior to 1923
- A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous novel The Land of Mist as well as his History of Spiritualism
- A variety of pulp and mystery-based characters (via Jess Nevins on Twitter)
- Puccini’s final opera Turandot
- Bambi by Felix Saltern
One of the main advantages to items entering the public domain is that writers, musicians, and others can create derivative works that either keep the work in public view or foster further creativity. As an author, I have written public domain characters like the Black Bat, the Masked Rider, and Marty Quade.. Other kinds of derivative works include
- High-quality EPUB and AZW files like those provided by Standard E-Books (who just included some new-to-the-public-domain works)
- Volunteer-created audiobooks like those provided by Librivox
- For-profit compilations like those provided by Delphi Classics
- Scanned digital comics through the Digital Comic Museum
However, there are a few caveats when creative derivative works. For example, writing works based on Winnie-the-Pooh and/or Bambi should take care to base themselves on the original work and not Disney’s animated versions. (Disney owns the trademarks on their particular iterations of the character). Different countries also have different standards for what is considered public domain , and ebook vendors like Delphi Classics often differentiate the availability of their products. Although there was a landmark court case involving Sherlock Holmes several years ago, the last of the stories included in 1926’s Casebook of Sherlock Holmes passed into the public domain this year. For writers, scholars, and creators, every aspect of the Sherlockian canon is now freely available to use for derivative works.
This post is not intended to be extensively thorough in regards to public domain works. It is meant to serve as a resource for the greater community. In an effort to find unique resources for creativity, education, and community building, many are seeking free-to-use and easy-to-obtain services. With the “opening up” of public domain in the United States over the past few years, there is a great sense of excitement about what is being made available…and that works are no longer at risk of being lost or ignored.
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