Sound Recordings in the Public Domain

January 14, 2022 Soledad Lencinas
old piano keyboard

Public Domain Day is observed every year on January 1st when copyright of certain works, such as books and films, expire and the works become available for anyone to reuse and share. This year, works published in 1926 entered the public domain as their 95-year copyright protection period expired. Also, under the Music Modernization Act, it is estimated that about 400,000 sound recordings from before 1923 are also now joining the public domain. For that reason, on January 20 Creative Commons, The Internet Archive and other Open Movement leaders will commemorate the works that entered the public domain with events themed “A Celebration of Sound” (please see this Creative Commons announcement for more information).

Sound recordings that entered the public domain include works by Enrico Caruso, Nora Bayes, Al Jolson, and many others. To find some sound recordings in the public domain you may search the Library of Congress National Jukebox Collection.

A few of the written works that entered the public domain this year include:

  • Winnie-the-Pooh (A. A. Milne)
  • The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Soldier’s Pay (William Faulkner)
  • My Mortal Enemy (Willa Cather)
  • The Castle (Franz Kafka)
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom (T. E. Lawrence)
  • The Weary Blues (Langston Hughes)

Some of the above listed books are available from HathiTrust and/or other sources, including the library print or electronic collections.


[About the header image: Old piano photo by Francisco Moreno has an open Unsplash license]

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