If you love old movies, books and music, you’ll be pleased to know that a very large collection of copyrighted content has entered public domain, allowing you to adapt or adopt — or simply enjoy — them for your own creative purposes.
Now, you may be wondering why these items are being released now. You can thank U.S. Copyright Office for that. Under the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” a year’s worth of literature, art and films from 1923 have been released into the public domain. Creative works from 1924 will be released next year and the pattern will continue in the later years.
The best works of 1923 released
These creative works, which vary from e.e. cummings’ “Tulips and Chimneys” to Cecil B. DeMille’s cinematic masterpiece, “The Ten Commandments,” are now available for free. You can now download, republish, cut and splice, or incorporate these works into whatever format you so desire and you can sleep soundly knowing that your creative endeavors are perfectly legal.
The archive of free works can be daunting to comb through, so here are a few of the more notable works available to us now:
Various short films starring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” starring Lon Chaney, animated films featuring Felix the Cat and Koko the Clown, Anton Chekhov’s “Love and Other Stories,” Agatha Christie’s “The Murder on the Links,” Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and music from George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Louis Armstrong’s collaboration with Lil Hardin.
Even if you are not a film maker, composer, or aspiring artist, this elaborate archive is sure to provide countless hours of entertainment for folks of all ages and artistic tastes.
‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act’
By the way, why the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”? It’s called that because it served to protect Disney’s iconic character from entering the public domain in 1978. It made the terms of protection the life of a work’s author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship.
That means that the copyright for Mickey’s first movie, 1928’s “Steamboat Willie,” will expire in 2024, but Disney will still have a trademark for Mickey himself.