For twenty years, no “new” creative works published in the United States entered into the public domain. This hiatus gave corporations like Disney extra time to exploit their copyrights (you know, by threatening litigation or filing it whenever anyone dared to reference the copyrighted works without paying a licensing fee for the privilege).*
Today, the freeze is over. The public domain is growing again.
We are now able to quote liberally from, annotate, re-publish, or produce adaptations of materials published in 1923. Next year, we’ll be able to use works published in 1924, and the year after that, 1925, and so on (unless Congress intervenes to protect corporations again).
The expansion of the public domain–which belongs to all of us–is very exciting. I can’t wait to see what new authors do with these old works.
Of the three novels I’ve published, two of them are retellings of classic literature: Amelia Elkins Elkins, which is based on Persuasion by Jane Austen, and Anusha of Prospect Corner, an #OwnVoices twist on Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.
And now, as of today, another book by L. M. Montgomery is available in the United States for adaptations: Emily of New Moon!
I’m hoping there are authors who are interested in re-imagining this wonderful classic (I’m looking at you, Jaclyn, but no pressure!).
So, readers & writers, are there works from 1923 that you’re hoping will return to life through adaptations now that their copyrights have expired?
To explore what’s new to the public domain as of today, check out this list from the HathiTrust.
*I’ve written about greedy literary estates before. Here are few of those posts:
- When Someone Quotes You, Say “Thank You,” Not “F-You.” (William Faulkner estate)
- Preventing Literature from Disappearing Up Its Own A-Hole: Quotations, Fanfiction, and Copyright Law
- To Kill a Mockingbird vs. I Kill The Mockingbird
- The Conan Doyle Estate Loses Its “Quixotic” Quest to Control Sherlock Holmes
- Oh, the People You’ll Sue! (When You’re Dr. Seuss Enterprises)