10 Famous Works About to Enter the Public Domain
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10 Famous Works About to Enter the Public Domain


A new annual tradition will start at the end
of 2018. On New Year’s Day 2019, hundreds of thousands
of movies, books, paintings, drawings, and musical scores will be stripped of their copyright
and enter the public domain. For decades, American copyright laws have
kept Intellectual Property (IP) from 1923 on under copyrighted, but starting in 2019
all works created in 1923 will convert from copyright protected to copyright free. The next year, on January 1, 2020, the tradition
will continue with IP from 1924, and so on year after year. Online companies are taking notice too, with
Google Books setting up many of its millions of scanned books, that were published in 1923,
to automatically allow full-text free online viewing. When materials are copyright free and enter
the public domain that means you, or anyone, can do whatever they want with the material. For example, you can legally make copies of
movies that are in the public domain and give them away, sell them, remix them, add porn
scenes and sell them (but don’t do that, it’d be super weird), or anything else you
want, with no restrictions. Here are 10 classic works that are about to
enter the public domain in just a few months… 10. Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! The 1923 movie Safety Last! contains one of
the most iconic scenes in silent film history, where actor Harold Lloyd desperately clings
to the hands of a large clock on the side of a skyscraper. Roger Ebert called it the most famous scene
in a silent comedy. Back then, film safety was pretty much non-existent
and a few years earlier, in 1919, Lloyd had actually lost a thumb and forefinger doing
promotional work for another film, Haunted Spooks. His performance in Safety Last! and the movie’s
box office numbers cemented his place as an A-List leading man. In honor of its lasting influence and cultural
importance, the Library of Congress added Safety Last! to its National Film Registry
in 1994. On January 1, 2019, it will be stripped of
its copyrighted status and enter the public domain, where you can do anything you want
with the film. 9. Hélice by Robert Delaunay Robert Delaunay and his wife Sonia Delaunay
were some of the founders of the Orphism art movement, an offshoot of Cubism (of Pablo
Picasso fame). Respected art critic Guillaume Apollinaire
thought that art should be like music and that Orphism, with its colors and shapes,
reflected that. At 38-years-old, in 1923, Robert Delaunay
painted an Orphism masterpiece when he created “Hélice.” Today the original canvas is displayed in
the German Wilhelm-Hack-Museum. And on January 1, 2019, it’ll be public
domain so you can print it and use it however you want. 8. “The Charleston” jazz song “The Charleston” is the jazz song that,
as you can probably guess, helped spark the Charleston dance craze. The lyrics were written by Cecil Mack and
the musical score was done by Jimmy Johnson. When the song was released in 1923, conservative
groups were outraged, with Rev. EW Walters, vicar of St Aidan’s, Bristol saying “any
lover of the beautiful will die rather than be associated with the Charleston … It is
neurotic! It is rotten! It stinks! Phew, open the windows.” Popular culture did not listen to Rev. Walters,
and the song and the dance are legendary in America and around the world. Whenever the roaring twenties are brought
up in movies or TV you can count on hearing “The Charleston.” 7. The Ten Commandments Considered one of the founding fathers of
American cinema, Cecil B. DeMille made over 70 films before dying of heart failure in
1959. His films span every genre and over his career
he created both silent movies and talkies (or movies with a soundtrack). He started acting in and producing plays,
but entered into the world of movies with his first film, The Squaw Man, in 1914. It was the first feature-length motion picture
filmed in Hollywood. A 17-minute short film, In Old California,
was technically the first motion picture shot in Hollywood. The Squaw Man was a huge success and cemented
Hollywood as the center of movie production. Nine years later, in May 1923, DeMille started
production on an epic biblical story, The Ten Commandments (no, not the Charlton Heston
version). The movie stunned Hollywood insiders when
DeMille became the first producer to spend over $1,000,000 on a film. He claims the backers actually fired him due
to the cost overruns but were forced to hire him back, as he was the only man who could
finish the production. When the movie was released in 1923 it smashed
box office records and was Paramount’s highest grossing film for 25 years. The period drama featured huge, life-size
sets of Ancient Egypt. After filming, the sets were abandoned to
the elements and buried under the shifting sands of California’s Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes,
the largest remaining dune system south of San Francisco. In 2012 archaeologists uncovered the forgotten
Egyptian “ruins” created for the film and unearthed several monuments, including
one of the 12-foot tall, 5-ton Sphinxes that were produced for the movie. 6. Several Works of Kandinsky Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Wassilyevich
Kandinsky is considered one of the founders of abstract art and for decades was considered
to have created the first purely abstract painting. His 1923 tension series paintings including
Zarte Spannung (Delicate Tension) were painted while he worked at the Bauhaus, Berlin a German
art school. After they were finished the paintings were
in a museum until 1937, when it was shut down under Hitler’s crackdown on art. The paintings and their owner, Baroness Hilla
Rebay, a daughter of a Prussian General, then moved to America where she became one of the
founding members of New York’s Guggenheim art museum. After the Nazis closed Berlin’s Bauhaus
art school in 1933, Kandinsky moved to France, where he painted until he died from complications
of cerebrovascular disease in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, on December 13, 1944. 5. Chaplin’s The Pilgrim Charlie Chaplin had been doing films since
1914 and almost from the beginning played his iconic character, the Tramp. His movies attracted huge numbers and gave
him fame and fortune. In 1919 he co-founded United Artists as a
means to give him control over film production. The Pilgrim was released on February 26, 1923. The 46-minute movie was his second shortest
feature. Jeffrey Vance, in his 2003 book Chaplin: Genius
of the Cinema, says that “The Pilgrim is one of Chaplin’s richest—and most neglected—films.” In 1959 Chaplin released The Pilgrim (1923)
along with A Dog’s Life (1918), and Shoulder Arms (1918) as a trilogy called The Chaplin
Revue in hopes of being able to reboot the Tramp character. 4. Poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” Robert Frost is an iconic American poet who
tallied four Pulitzer Prizes for his work (New Hampshire in 1924; Collected Poems in
1931; A Further Range in 1937; and A Witness Tree in 1943). His work inspires many and these poems are
a trusted foundation for eulogy speeches. His piece “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy
Evening” is no exception and has been used to honor the dead, including during the funeral
for assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
also honored his father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he used an altered
line of the poem during his father’s funeral. Studied by students around the world, Frost’s
poetry is carefully monitored by the Frost estate and when his prose is used without
permission, cease and desist lawsuits are quick to fly. Famous composer Eric Whitacre found this out
the hard way when he completed a commissioned piece for the funeral of the parents of a
woman named Julia Armstrong. Listeners at the funeral were enamored with
the piece and soon Whitacre was swamped by requests from conductors trying to get the
musical score. Around the same time, Frost’s estate caught
wind of the score and its use of the poem and, in a flurry of lawsuits, shut it down. This all ends when “Stopping by Woods on
a Snowy Evening” enters the public domain. It was actually set to enter the public domain
in 1998, 75 years after first publication but on October 27, 1998, Congress passed the
Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the copyright term to 95 years which
makes the poem enter the public domain on January 1, 2019. 3. Still Life With Cat German painter Georg Schrimpf is seen as the
main founder of the art trend Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). Schrimpf also, after World War I, participated
in the brief existence of the Bavarian Soviet Republic before it was crushed by the remnants
of the Imperial German Army. As Hitler tightened the screws of Nazi power
Schrimpf was fired from his university in 1937 and his work was banned as “Degenerate
Art” because he was involved in the Bavarian Soviet and deemed a communist. On April 19, 1938, he died at age 49. In 1923 he painted “Still Life With Cat.” Germany released a commemorative stamp of
the image on January 12, 1995, but the original painting is at the Staatsgalerie Moderne Kunst
Museum. 1995 was the last year that Deutsche Bundespost
(German federal post office) existed and appeared on stamps, as that year it was dissolved during
a government privatization push. 2. Bambi by Felix Salten Felix Salten published Bambi: A Life in the
Woods in 1923. His target audience was adults and it was
first published as a serialized tale in Austria. The story was hugely popular and caught the
eye of Max Schuster, co-founder of the now giant publishing company Simon & Schuster. He got the book translated, allowing the English
world to follow the transformation of Bambi from a weak and powerless fawn into a mighty
stag and Great Prince of the Forest. Ohio State University professor Paul Reitter
contends that Salten, a Jew that faced discrimination in Austria, wrote the story as a metaphor
for the Jewish existence in Europe, arguing, “Could the deer living in a forest ever
trust that human hunters would let them live in peace? That echoes a haunting question for Jews”
and antisemitism in 1920s Europe. From 1933, efforts were made to animate the
story but the technical limitations of animation at the time prevented making the film, until
Walt Disney was able to overcome all obstacles and in 1939 started making the now iconic
cartoon, eventually spending three years on the project before releasing the movie in
1942. A close adaption of the book, Disney was able
to use a loophole in copyright law to try and avoid paying Salten a dime. 1. Felix the Cat cartoons Almost a decade before the 1928 debut of Mickey
Mouse (in Steamboat Willie), animator Otto Messmer and his boss Pat Sullivan were trying
to create a marketable character, toying with a cartoon black cat. After months of tweaking, two films were released:
Feline Follies on November 9, 1919, and on November 16, 1919 it was Musical Mews (a film
that has been lost). But the cat in these films was a prototype
dubbed Master Tom. The first film with a cat named Felix was
The Adventures of Felix, released on December 14, 1919. It was the first character created solely
for the film industry, the first character to reach a high level of fame, and also the
first character to be licensed and merchandised, bringing in huge money for Sullivan’s animation
company. One of the most popular cartoon characters,
Felix the Cat has been beloved by millions for decades. His image has adorned everything from being
the oldest recognized mascot in the state of Indiana to the official emblem of the United
States Navy strike fighter squadron VFA-31, the second oldest Navy Fighter Attack squadron
operating today. Come January 1, 2019, any Felix cartoons released
in 1923 or before will be released into the public domain.

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