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New Public Domain Items for 2024

Every year on January 1, a whole lot of things enter the public domain. For the year 2024, anything published in 1928 suddenly belongs to everybody. There’s a substantial but not exhaustive list here on Google Docs. If (like me) you’re a fan of Tom Swift, Tom Swift and His Talking Pictures will now be free of charge and (soon) up on Project Gutenberg. In the long tail of the original series, only one Tom Swift novel was published per year. In 2025 we’ll get Tom Swift and His House on Wheels (1929) in which Tom basically invents the RV. Remember that this is the original series, which some call Tom Swift, Sr. Tom Swift Jr. will still be a long time off, running as it did between 1954 and 1971.

The first three Hardy Boys mysteries went public last year. Three more were published in 1928: The Missing Chums, Hunting for Hidden Gold, and The Shore Road Mystery. Keep in mind that the older Hardy Boys books were updated in the 50s and 60s; those volumes are still under copyright. Nancy Drew didn’t debut until 1930 but be patient; 2026 will be here before you know it.

The House at Pooh Corner and Bambi, a Life in the Woods go public in 2024, as do The Giant Horse of Oz, The Threepenny Opera, Millions of Cats, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Thea Von Harbou’s The Rocket to the Moon—in German. (We’ll get it in English in 2026.) Fritz Lang made a film of it, entitled The Woman in the Moon, in 1929. That same snag applies to All Quiet on the Western Front, which was published in 1928—in German. We won’t get the English translation until 2025.

And those are only the things I recognized. Now, don’t think for a second I forgot that the cartoon Steamboat Willie enters the public domain in 2024. That’s just the film; the character is heavily trademarked by Disney, and I doubt Steamboat Willie’s new public domain status will do anybody any good.

The public domain is a complicated business. It varies by country, so something under copyright here in the US might not be under copyright in, say, New Zealand. Even in the US, there are a lot of details, and gotchas like the issue of copyright renewal of works published before 1963, and much else. A good, accessible long-form overview of US copyright with a focus on 2024 can be had on CopyrightLately.

That’s about all I have time for right now. Once the new year gets underway, Project Gutenberg and will have lots of new items to post. If you spot a good one, do let me know.


  1. Bob says:

    Regarding trademark by Disney on Mickey Mouse it will be fun out in court. Here’s one take.

    “The difference with Disney’s Mickey Mouse is to do with trademarks and the changing nature of the character.

    Firstly, Disney has tightened its association with the video of Steamboat Willie by using it in the opening credits for all of its films since 2006.

    Trademarks are protected under a different US law, and do not expire so long as the company continues to submit the proper paperwork. Trademarks are designed to protect against consumer confusion, so any use of Mickey Mouse which suggests he belongs to a brand other than Disney is illegal.

    Lessing suggests that this might not be a huge problem, so long as artists make it clear their work was not “produced, endorsed, licensed, or approved by Disney.”

    “Trademark rights cannot be used to block the freedoms that the expiration of copyright allows,” Lessing said.”

  2. Lee Hart says:

    Regarding the Tom Swift (Sr.) stories; many of them are already off copyright. I have “Tom Swift and his Electric Runabout” (where he invents the electric car). It is copyrighted in 1910, and lists at least four earlier titles.

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