What’s entering the public domain in 2021?

At last, 2020 is over! I already have my 2021 calendar up, and I am grateful to bid farewell to a year that felt like some new crisis or tragedy occurred every month, on top of the global pandemic and health crisis that dominated everything.

You know me, though, and there’s another reason I’m always looking forward to the 1st of January – it’s the day that copyrights expire on books, films, songs, comics, plays, artworks, and other creative works that are either 95 years old or whose creators passed away 70 years ago. This means that this year, anything published in 1925 is now public domain, free for anyone to use in any way they wish.

So, what is entering the public domain today? Well, let’s start with the big one:

That’s right, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous “Great American Novel” about class and obsession in the Jazz Age is now in the public domain. The Great Gatsby is now free for anyone to copy or adapt as they wish. If you are an aspiring comic book artist and want to make a graphic novel adaptation, feel free. Want to use the characters in your own novel? Go ahead! Think you can make a better film adaptation than Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2013 vehicle? Give it a shot!

Another famous 1925 novel that just entered the public domain is Virginia Woolf’s dissection of 1920’s high society Mrs. Dalloway. Other novels whose copyrights are expired include Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys, Ernest Hemmingway’s In Our Time, and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

Speaking of the Jazz Age, the classic song “Sweet Georgia Brown” entered the public domain this year:

The copyright has also expired on the song that, to me, most typifies the 1920’s, “Yes Sir, that’s my Baby”:

Of course, you can’t talk about the Jazz Age without talking about the great jazz composer Duke Ellington, whose song “Jig Walk” is also among the songs entering the public domain. Last year, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue entered the public domain, and this year, it’s joined by his song “Looking for a Boy”.

If you feel like watching a copyright-free movie, why not the Buster Keaton classic Go West?

Perhaps the most appropriate film to enter the public domain on January 1, 2020, is Lovers in Quarantine:

Yeah, those faces seem quite relatable these days.

Then again, as far as I can tell, that last one may be hard to find, as the Library of Congress appears to hold the only surviving copy of the film and they haven’t made it available to watch on their website yet.

Lastly, there’s the crime drama The Unholy Three, one of 1925’s most popular films:

This list is by no means exhaustive. As usual, Duke University maintains a much more robust list including many works that are a bit more obscure. Check it out if you want to know more.

For now, I just want to take a moment to thank and appreciate all of you Cat Flaggers who are reading this right now. This year has been tough for almost everyone, and it has in some ways brought out both the worst and the best in us. It has certainly made me appreciate all the many blessings in my life that I can’t take for granted, and this blog, and all of you Cat Flaggers reading it, is one of those blessings. It means a lot to me that you take the time to read my thoughts and share in my interests. I am glad you are all alive and safe, and I hope each and every one of you has a better 2021.

Now, more than ever, I truly wish you all a Happy New Year.

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