A new year has arrived, and with it, a new crop of literature, music, films and other media enter into the public domain. “That means that copyright has expired,” explains Center for the Study of the Public Domain director Jennifer Jenkins told NPR. “And all of the works are free for anyone to use, reuse, build upon for anyone — without paying a fee.” In other words, as of today, the seminal works of 1925 are yours to have, to hold and to adapt into an anachronistic musical or zombie-filled prestige horror-drama.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith, Aldous Huxley’s Those Barren Leaves, Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys, and The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke and featuring works by authors like Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, and others, are just some of the tomes now in public domain.
As for movies, Buster Keaton’s Go West, Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, The Merry Widow, and Lovers in Quarantine have also arrived, while songs like “Always” by Irving Berlin, “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson, and Gertrude “Ma” Rainey’s “Shave ’Em Dry” can be immediately added to your film’s soundtrack.
You can see the Center for the Study of the Public Domain’s curated list of works, or spend the next twelve months or so going through the full list, which includes pamphlets, leaflets, periodicals, maps, lectures, and sermons. Because Hollywood loves an existing IP, and why shouldn’t that IP be a pamphlet from 1925?