Speaking of The Sun Also Rises…
From the Duke University law site:
On January 1, 2022, copyrighted works from 1926 will enter the US public domain, where they will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. The line-up this year is stunning. It includes books such as A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, Felix Salten’s Bambi, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Langston Hughes’ The Weary Blues, and Dorothy Parker’s Enough Rope. There are scores of silent films—including titles featuring Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Greta Garbo, famous Broadway songs, and well-known jazz standards. But that’s not all. In 2022 we get a bonus: an estimated 400,000 sound recordings from before 1923 will be entering the public domain too! (Please note that this site is only about US law; the copyright terms in other countries are different.)
In 2022, the public domain will welcome a lot of “firsts”: the first Winnie-the-Pooh book from A. A. Milne, the first published novels from Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, the first books of poems from Langston Hughes and Dorothy Parker. What’s more, for the first time ever, thanks to a 2018 law called the Music Modernization Act, a special category of works—sound recordings—will finally begin to join other works in the public domain. On January 1 2022, the gates will open for all of the recordings that have been waiting in the wings. Decades of recordings made from the advent of sound recording technology through the end of 1922—estimated at some 400,000 works—will be open for legal reuse.
That Winnie the Pooh book by A. A. Milne with “decorations” by E. H. Shepard might prove difficult. Disney Corp. has owned the rights to the writing and the illustrations for quite some time, and it won’t be easy to wrest control from them. They have shown a willingness to drag people through the court system to keep control of properties of theirs which have fallen into public domain.
Winnie the Pooh is a money-minting property for Disney:
In 2021 Statista estimated that Winnie the Pooh ranked #3 in the top-grossing media franchises of all time, behind only Pokemon and Hello Kitty and tied with Mickey Mouse. So far, it has brought in a total of 80.3 billion dollars worldwide. This evolution into a lucrative franchise began when Milne sold certain rights to the literary agent and “father of the licensing industry” Stephen Slesinger in 1930.
After Slesinger’s death some of the Pooh rights were transferred by his heirs to Disney, who removed the hyphens from “Winnie-the-Pooh” and expanded the media and merchandising Pooh-niverse. After a decades-long legal tussle between Disney and the Slesinger heirs … Disney prevailed and officially owns the Winnie the Pooh copyrights and trademarks.
Jenkins is closely watching if the Walt Disney Corporation, which owns the billion-dollar Winnie the Pooh franchise, will attempt to block independent creators from adapting the fictional bear in new works. With the exception of the character Tigger, who first appears in Milne’s 1928 book The House at Pooh Corner, the plot, dialogue, and characters from the 1926 story as well as E.H. Shepard’s accompanying line drawings are free to use. This could mean updated tales about Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet, and Eeyore, or even inventive NFT propositions featuring the original book illustrations.
Jenkins notes that Disney still retains rights to Milne’s books published after 1926, as well as the trademark to the words “Winnie-the-Pooh” in branded books and products. They also own exclusive rights to color renditions of Winnie-the-Pooh characters featured in films, books, and merchandise after 1926.
Disney has a reputation for pushing back public domain deadlines…
Another year of comic strips is in public domain. Such continuing strips as Gasoline Alley (Walt marries Phyllis), Barney Google, Fritzi Ritz, and Thimble Theatre can have their 1926 comics collected without paying royalties, though the names and titles are still protected by trademark.
Some comic strips created in 1926 and now in public domain for that year’s strips:
The book entered p.d. last year and now the entire Gentlemen Prefer Blondes comic strip is p.d.
As Allan Holtz tells us us it only ran from June to October of 1926.
Only the first part of Texas History Movies (1926-1928) are free from copyright.
J. Carroll Mansfield’s High Lights of History started in 1926,
but it looks as those rights haven’t been maintained through the years.
Billy DeBeck created Parlor, Bedroom and Sink as a topper to his Barney Google and Spark Plug in 1926. It would later gain fame when Bunker Hill, Jr. took over the starring role.
Other debuts in 1926 were Sally’s Sallies by R. J. Scott
Jinglets by Al Posen
and, back to books, All the Funny Folks by Jack Lait and Louis Biedermann.
Finally, 1926 brings the world within ten strips –
January 2 – February 20, 1927 (signed); February 27 – March 6, 1927 (unsigned) –
of the entire Little Nemo of Slumberland by Winsor McCay being public domain.
5 thoughts on “1926 is Public Domain in 2022”
This is really useful information, but 95 years is nuts. The idea that you can’t use a Krazy Kat comic strip from 1927. Nuts.
ISTR that Rep. Sonny Bono at the request of Disney, got copyright protection extended from 75 years after publication to 95 years. Originally copyright extended 28 years, with one renewal available for another 28 years. Then came the Lawyers’ Full Employment of 1976, which I can’t to into because my laptop battery is low.
Sonny began the process, which might or might not have passed, but then he slammed into a tree skiing, died, his wife took over his seat and the sympathy vote put all sorts of things out of reach for years.
Thanks for clarifying. I remember his death, but I didn’t remember that the bill hadn’t passed when he died. Some of the early Micky Mouse cartoons will be public domain in a couple of years–I wonder what they’ll do to get another extension.
And the current copyright laws ruin the joke about the blues singer who was on the road so long that when he got home all of his songs were public domain.
@Fred King – they probably won’t, the Mickey that comes into the public domain is that particular expression, lacking the modern face and gloves and probably familiar colours. Anything more closely resembling modern Mickey would be trademarked, and trademarks don’t expire.
The irony, of course, is how much of Disney’s early money was built on moving public domain stories into copyrighted versions.
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