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Mass. Pirate News: The Best Things In Life Are Free

Another Public Domain Day January 1st and we can now enjoy works created in 1927 free of the shackles of copyright! Early Mickey Mouse is still in Disney lockdown until next year, but we have a selection of what has entered the public domain. Duke University Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a summary of the new works we can enjoy free of copyright. We provided links to some works we found at The Internet Archive, where we expect more works now in the public domain to appear.

The Massachusetts Pirate Party Pirate News show discussed Public Domain Day and all of the latest news of interest to Pirates.

Copyrighted works entering the public domain were put on hold by the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, aka the the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, which extended the term of copyright from the life of the author + 50 years to life of the author + 70 years. When the term of copyright was 28 years with a 28 year renewal, 85% of copyrighted works were not renewed since the profit from the work wasn’t higher than the cost of renewal. The Center for the Study of the Public Domain notes:

"A Congressional Research Service report indicated that only around 2% of copyrights between 55 and 75 years old retain commercial value. After 75 years, that percentage is even lower. Most older works are “orphan works,” where the copyright owner cannot be found at all."

As a result, we have lost 20 years worth of films, news reels and documentaries because many of them have simply rotted away as the copyright holders didn’t have a financial incentive to digitize them and archivists couldn’t do so while the works were under copyright.

Here is a selection of works available this year as well as links to copies of some of them from The Internet Archive. Many thanks to the Duke University Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain:


  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
  • Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Countee Cullen, Copper Sun
  • A. A. Milne, Now We Are Six, illustrations by E. H. Shepard
  • Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
  • Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women (collection of short stories)
  • William Faulkner, Mosquitoes
  • Agatha Christie, The Big Four
  • Edith Wharton, Twilight Sleep
  • Herbert Asbury, The Gangs of New York (the original 1927 publication)
  • Franklin W. Dixon (pseudonym), The Tower Treasure (the first Hardy Boys book)
  • Hermann Hesse, Der Steppenwolf (in the original German)
  • Franz Kafka, Amerika (in the original German)
  • Marcel Proust, Le Temps retrouvé (the final installment of In Search of Lost Time, in the original French)

Musical Compositions (You are free to perform them yourself!)

  • The Best Things in Life Are Free (George Gard De Sylva, Lew Brown, Ray Henderson; from the musical Good News)
  • (I Scream You Scream, We All Scream for) Ice Cream (Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, Robert A. King)
  • Puttin’ on the Ritz (Irving Berlin)
  • Funny Face and ’S Wonderful (Ira and George Gershwin; from the musical Funny Face)
  • Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man and Ol’ Man River (Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern; from the musical Show Boat)
  • Back Water BluesPreaching the BluesFoolish Man Blues (Bessie Smith)
  • Potato Head BluesGully Low Blues (Louis Armstrong)
  • Rusty Pail BluesSloppy Water BluesSoothin’ Syrup Stomp (Thomas Waller)
  • Black and Tan Fantasy and East St. Louis Toodle-O (Bub Miley, Duke Ellington)
  • Billy Goat StompHyena StompJungle Blues (Ferdinand Joseph Morton)
  • My Blue Heaven (George Whiting, Walter Donaldson)
  • Diane (Erno Rapee, Lew Pollack)
  • Mississippi Mud (Harry Barris, James Cavanaugh)


  • Metropolis (directed by Fritz Lang)
  • The Jazz Singer (the first feature-length film with synchronized dialogue; directed by Alan Crosland)
  • Wings (winner of the first Academy Award for outstanding picture; directed by William A. Wellman)
  • The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller)
  • The King of Kings (directed by Cecil B. DeMille)
  • 7th Heaven (directed by Frank Borzage)
  • The Kid Brother (starring Harold Lloyd; directed by Ted Wilde)
  • The Battle of the Century (starring the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy; directed by Clyde Bruckman)
  • Upstream (directed by John Ford)

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