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I'm Andrew. I write about the past and future of tech, music, media, culture, art, and activism. This is my blog.

Public Domain Day 2020!

Posted: January 1, 2020

It’s January 1st, and for the second time in recent memory, it’s public domain day in the US. That means that dozens of works from 1924 have now entered the public domain. Let’s run through a few things that were released in 1924, and talk about what you can do with them now.

I won’t give a full list of works that entered the public domain, because that’d take a long time and be kind of boring. Instead I’m going to highlight a few important works, and share links to those works. If you want more general information, there are I recommend Duke.edu’s Public Domain Day Post

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

Gershwin’s estate is a big part of the reason that works stopped entering the US public domain when I was a kid. I thought it would be fitting to kick things off with a couple of covers of Rhapsody in Blue. One is a straight piano cover (via Midi), the other two (also via midi) use various NES/SNES soundfonts. Gershwin’s estate would no doubt find this pretty distasteful, but I think it’s super neat! Listening to the NES/8-bit version (which is my favorite), I can almost see Link walking through Hyrule with a Thompson on his shoulder.

(Note that while the sheet music is in the public domain, audio copyright in the US is a massive clusterfuck, and any given recording of the track is definitely still under copyright.)

See See Rider

Ma Rainey’s classic blues tune, covered by every garage band and rock and roll upstart of the 50s and 60s!

As mentioned previously, this recording (which is a cover from the 40s) is still under copyright for at least another few years, but The Internet Archive has been kind enough to find a way to share it anyway. Now that the music and lyrics are in the public domain, you can record your own cover or re-interpret the song as you see fit, and I hope you will (and I hope you’ll tell me abou tit!)

Tarzan and the Ant-Men

Currently available from Project Gutenburg AU, but soon to be available in many more places, because it’s in the PD in the US.

Sherlock Jr.

Starring Buster Keaton, Directed by Buster Keaton, Entering the Public Domain in the US Today (January 1st, 2020)

Watch Buster Keaton daydream about being the hero in this 1924 Sherlock Holmes Fan Film. Features some of Keaton’s most complex trick photography to date.

Silent comedy, medium length, lots of fun.

(Also available on Peertube) with a full review coming soon!

What else?

Lots of other interesting works entered the Public Domain in the US this year, and I’m looking forward to exploring them with you. I’m going to try to make PD Day a monthly exercise all year.


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