These Incredible Creative Works Are Entering the Public Domain in 2020

January 1 is a time to start fresh and look forward to the coming year full of possibilities. And for art and culture lovers, New Year's Day is more than just a time to ruminate on resolutions—it's also Public Domain Day. Each year, on January 1, new pieces of art, literature, music, and cinema enter into the public domain.

In the United States, this is just the second public domain release since the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 upped the copyright length to 95 years for any work published between 1923 and 1977. Prior to 1978, copyright expired after 56 years. That means we could have been seeing the release of material from 1963! This would have included Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and songs from The Beach Boys' Surfin' USA. But alas, this is not the case.

For 2020, we can still look forward to a plethora of incredible cultural finds from 1924, though Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain points out some of the pitfalls of such a long copyright term. “Unfortunately, the fact that works from 1924 are legally available does not mean they are actually available. After 95 years, many of these works are already lost or literally disintegrating (as with old films and recordings), evidence of what long copyright terms do to the conservation of cultural artifacts.”

What is still viable will be available for creators to engage with and be inspired by for years to come. To get started, Internet Archive and Google Books are fantastic resources for literature, music, and movies. And for inspiration on what to search for, check out Wikipedia's pages on art, music, literature, and films released in 1924.

Wondering what's in the public domain in 2020? Check out a list of highlights from work published in 1924.



New York Pavements by Edward Hopper

‘New York Pavements' by Edward Hopper (Photo: via WikiArt)

  • New York Pavements by Edward Hopper
  • Portrait of the Art Dealer Johanna Ey by Otto Dix
  • Contrasting Sounds by Wassily Kandinsky
  • Asiatic GodCarnival in the Mountains, and Flower Garden by Paul Klee
  • Le PiègeLe Carnaval d'ArlequinHead of a Catalan Peasant by Joan Miró
  • Le Violon d'Ingres by Man Ray
  • Flower Abstraction by Georgia O'Keefe



  • Buster Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr. and The Navigator
  • The first film adaptation of Peter Pan
  • Dante's Inferno 
  • The Thief of Baghdad



Public Domain Literature 2020

  • Old New York by Edith Wharton
  • The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  • Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O'Neill
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda



  • Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
  • Lazy by Irving Berlin


h/t: [Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Public Domain Review]

Related Articles:

10 Artists Whose Work Entered the Public Domain in 2018 (But Not in America)

Hundreds of Copyrighted Works Finally Enter the Public Domain After 95 Years

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Releases 400,000 Hi-Res Images Online to the Public

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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