Happy Public Domain Day 2022!

On January 1 each year, the world gets a little freer as many creative, historical, and scientific works — some famous, many more out of print and little known — come out of the copyright closet and enter the public domain.

On January 1, 2022, these will include all the works first published in the United States in 1926 (under a 95-year term), as well as unpublished works created by authors who died in 1951 (70 years after death of author), and unpublished anonymous, pseudonymous, and works made for hire works created in 1901 (120 years after creation). Plus, the Music Modernization Act of 2018 finally lets pre-1923 sound recordings out from under a morass of confusing state laws and into the sunshine of the public domain.

"Monkey Selfie" image, with "Welcome to the Public Domain" text.


  • Works published in 1926!
  • Unpublished works by authors who died in 1951
  • Unpublished works, created in 1901, by anonymous writers and works made for hire
  • Sound recordings published prior to 1923

(Note: There are many roads to the public domain. Some works are never in copyright to begin with — facts and things not created by humans are two examples. The macaque on the left took its own picture with a camera provided by photographer David Slater, and because the photo was not created by a human, there is no copyright on it. (Read more about the “monkey selfie” dispute.)

The public domain is so-called because it is the world of all the creations that are owned by the public — ready for adaptations and new takes, and available to be republished, performed, and displayed. Entering the public domain gives scholars, artists, and the public another chance to learn about and build on these works, the vast majority of which fell out of print almost as soon as they were released. Famous and well-regarded works, too, gain a new life, with new adaptations, editions, and approaches to those works flourishing.

The Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a lovely profile of some of the wonderful published works coming into the public domain this year.

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