New year, new domain

Kafka, Metropolis, and the Hardy Boys enter US public domain in 2023

A song called "The Best Things in Life Are Free" will also now be free
Fritz Lang's movie Metropolis enters US public domain on January 1, 2023.
Fritz Lang's movie Metropolis enters US public domain on January 1, 2023.
Image: Fabrizio Bensch (Reuters)
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Auld Lang Syne” is in the air, you’re readying for a midnight kiss, fireworks crackle in the sky. The countdown is on: three, two, one ... happy public domain day!

On January 1, works of literature, music, and film first copyrighted in 1927 will enter the public domain in the US. This means that Hermann Hesse’s novel “Steppenwolf,” the final set of Sherlock Holmes stories, and the classic song “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!”—among many other works—will be free for anyone to copy, share, and build upon.

How long does copyright last?

For works published after Jan. 1, 1978 in the US, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For works produced prior to that date, the length of copyright depends on a number of factors. Those published between the years 1923 and 1963 usually have a 95-year term.

Notable books and authors entering US public domain in 2023

The first three novels in the Hardy Boys series will enter public domain on Jan. 1, 2023. Other popular literature that will lose copyrights include:

  • Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff
  • Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
  • Mosquitoes by William Faulknerm
  • The Big Four by Agatha Christie
  • Amerika by Franz Kafka
  • The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury
  • The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

Notable movies entering US public domain in 2023

Likely the most notable of the movies entering US public domain is Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The 1927 silent film is among the first feature-length science-fiction movies. Other movies include:

  • The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller
  • The King of Kings, directed by Cecil B. DeMille
  • The Battle of the Century, starring Laurel and Hardy

Notable music entering US public domain in 2023

Songs from Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Irving Berlin top the list of music now free to use:

  • “Potato Head Blues and Gully Low Blues” by Louis Armstrong
  • “Black and Tan Fantasy and East St. Louis Toodle-O” by Bub Miley and Duke Ellington
  • “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Irving Berlin
  • The Best Things in Life Are Free,” from the musical Good News
  • Funny Face and ‘S Wonderful” from the musical Funny Face