What’s Entering the Public Domain in 2023: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Franz Kafka’s Amerika & More

It’s safe to say that few, if any, of us alive today were doing any movie-going in 1927. But that should­n’t stop us from rec­og­niz­ing the impor­tance of that year to cin­e­ma itself. It saw the release of, among oth­er pic­tures, The Lodger, with which the young Alfred Hitch­cock first ful­ly assem­bled his sig­na­ture mechan­ics of sus­pense; Metrop­o­lis, Fritz Lang’s still-influ­en­tial vision of Art Deco dystopia; F. W. Mur­nau’s Sun­rise, a lav­ish roman­tic dra­ma com­plete with sound effects; and even the very first fea­ture-length “talkie,” The Jazz Singer star­ring Al Jol­son. And don’t even get us start­ed on what a year 1927 was for lit­er­a­ture.

Rather, take it from Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Rhea Nay­yar, who high­lights Franz Kafka’s posthu­mous­ly pub­lished first nov­el Ameri­ka, which is now “con­sid­ered one of his more real­is­tic and humor­ous works.” Nay­yar also men­tions Vir­ginia Woolf’s much bet­ter-known To the Light­house, which, like Ameri­ka as well as all the afore­men­tioned films, has just entered the pub­lic domain in the Unit­ed States in 2023 for any­one to enjoy and use as they please.

So has Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Case-Book of Sher­lock Holmes, the final book of sto­ries fea­tur­ing that icon­ic detec­tive, Ernest Hem­ing­way’s col­lec­tion Men With­out Women, Her­mann Hes­se’s Der Step­pen­wolf, and even the very first Hardy Boys nov­el, The Tow­er Trea­sure.

You’ll find many such notable books, movies, and musi­cal com­po­si­tions — that last group includ­ing such immor­tal tunes as “The Best Things in Life are Free,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “(I Scream You Scream, We All Scream for) Ice Cream” — round­ed up here by Jen­nifer Jenk­ins, direc­tor of Duke Law School’s Cen­ter for the Study of the Pub­lic Domain. She also explains why we should care: “1927 was a long time ago. The vast major­i­ty of works from 1927 are out of cir­cu­la­tion. When they enter the pub­lic domain in 2023, any­one can res­cue them from obscu­ri­ty and make them avail­able, where we can all dis­cov­er, enjoy, and breathe new life into them.” We know that many works cre­at­ed in 1927 have stood the test of time; now to find out what they’ll inspire us to cre­ate in 2023.

Find a list of impor­tant works enter­ing the pub­lic domain here.

via Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Law School

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Lodger: Alfred Hitchcock’s First Tru­ly ‘Hitch­cock­ian’ Movie (1927)

Metrop­o­lis: Watch Fritz Lang’s 1927 Mas­ter­piece

Free: F. W. Murnau’s Sun­rise, the 1927 Mas­ter­piece Vot­ed the 5th Best Movie of All Time

Why Should We Read Vir­ginia Woolf? A TED-Ed Ani­ma­tion Makes the Case

Franz Kaf­ka: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to His Lit­er­ary Genius

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Mike Conway says:

    Is there a place that actu­al­ly lists all the works going into pub­lic domain? I keep going to web­sites that list these same sets of books, movies, and so on.

    For instance, I know that “The Gnome King of Oz” by Ruth Plum­ly Thomp­son just entered pub­lic domain, but then, I’m a fan of the Oz books. But less-impor­tant stuff isn’t being dis­cov­ered because only the stuff men­tioned here is being pro­mot­ed.

    I would love to see a com­plete list.

  • quin says:

    The last line of the arti­cle points you to a sim­i­lar arti­cle by the “Cen­ter for the Study of the Pub­lic Domain” that in turn points you to the “Cat­a­log of Copy­right Entries”. That site has links for cat­a­logues of copy­right reg­is­tra­tions by year and medi­um. Each link will take you to that par­tic­u­lar cat­a­logue wher­ev­er it is stored online (archive.org, google books, etc.). It’s a mas­sive amount of entries so I wish you good hunt­ing.

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