Back in 2019, we celebrated a milestone: for the first time since 1998 the public domain of published works gained a tranche of new works. Every year since, on January 1, we celebrate Public Domain Day as works published 96 years before shed their copyrights and become free for all to use in any way they’d like, without payment to or permission from anyone. This year, we welcome works published in 1926, including iconic works like Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, pathbreaking debuts like Langston Hughes’ first poetry collection The Weary Blues, and every sound recording published before 1923.
That’s right, thanks to changes in the law related to sound recordings (it’s too exhausting to explain), the earliest historic sound recordings (estimated 400,000!) are now free of copyright. Because copyright keeps works disappeared, the vast majority of these recordings have not been commercially available for decades. Now the institutions that hold these collections can share them freely without worrying about legal liability.
If you encounter a 1926-published work in our collections that isn’t digitized anywhere, and that you’d like to free up for online access, submit a scan request with our digitization folks, and be sure to note that the work is newly public domain.
You can learn more about the works that entered the public domain this year by perusing some of these lists and blog posts: