Thursday, January 2, 2020

Public Domain Day - 2020

January 1st has become yet another reflection of our media-conscious society in its being heralded as Public Domain Day.  

This achieved widespread attention last year in 2019 when the creative works of 1923 passed into public domain (in the U.S. and many other countries--not all nations have uniform copyright codes). There had been a period between 1998 and 2018 when, in the U.S., the Copyright Term Extension Act kept works from entering the public domain.  With that expiration, it is expected that each year will bring a new crop of creative works -- books, music, art, and film -- into public domain.

This year, we welcome the works of 1924 into public domain.  For us classic film fans, that includes the following films:

Harold Lloyd's Girl Shy and Hot Water (which we discussed here)
Erich von Stroheim's Greed
Buster Keaton's The Navigator and Sherlock, Jr.
Raoul Walsh's The Thief of Bagdad
Herbert Brenon's Peter Pan starring Betty Bronson

To enter into public domain is a double-edged sword, as we know.  It can mean more accessibility to films and thereby increasing their popularity (perhaps the most famous example of this is the annual showing on TV of It's a Wonderful Life when it had been previously listed in public domain -- it is no longer), but it can also mean a lower likelihood to be restored and preserved if being in public domain appears to devalue it.

In an era where it seems much of our cultural heritage on film is being preserved by classic film fans and bloggers, we can be happy that a little more classic film is in our hands.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, and thank you again for the pleasure of your company.

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Memories in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century. Her newspaper column on classic films, Silver Screen, Golden Memories is syndicated nationally.


Caftan Woman said...

Happy New Year!

That double-edged sword keeps us both excited and worried.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Indeed. I think the next big fear for classic film fans is if the players on which we view our physical media - the DVDS, Blu-ray, VHS, etc., are no longer sold. That I am no longer able to record anything onto physical media from digital TV is pretty disheartening. But, Happy New Year!

Silver Screenings said...

I'm a bit surprised by some of these movies becoming part of the public domain, but maybe this will foster new classic film fans.

This also reminds me to finally see "Greed" once and for all!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I expect these movies will probably be posted on the Internet Archive, which will make seeing them very easy indeed.

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