Sherlock Holmes, Metropolis, and More Enter Public Domain Today

2023 is finally here and with the new year comes a number of changes in the pop culture landscape, perhaps the most exciting of which are updates to the United States public domain. Each year, new intellectual properties enter public domain due to the specifics of the Copyright Team Extension Act of 1998. The current rules under that act allow for works from 1927 to enter the public domain after a 96-year extension which means that in 2023, there are some significant works entering the public domain both in terms of books and other media. This year, one of the biggest is Arthur Conan Doyle's The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.

Also joining the final Sherlock Holmes stories in public domain this year is the seminal science fiction movie Metropolis, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, and the first full-length "talkie" film — meaning the first non-silent film — The Jazz Singer. Also included on the list are several musical compositions, including Irvin Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz", Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert A. King's "(I Scream You Scream, We All Scream For) Ice Cream", and some other well-known books, such as works from Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Agatha Christie, and A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six, a book of verses which features Winne-the-Pooh and other characters. Interestingly, Winnie-the-Pooh actually entered the public domain in 2022. You can find out more about the titles entering public domain in 2023 as well as in previous years here.

"When works go into the public domain, they can legally be shared, without permission or fee. Community theaters can screen the films. Youth orchestras can perform the music publicly, without paying licensing fees. Online repositories such as the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, Google Books, and the New York Public Library can make works fully available online. This helps enable access to cultural materials that might otherwise be lost to history. 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," Duke Law School's Center for the Study of the Public Domain outlines on their website.

Sherlock Holmes entering public domain effectively ends a legal debate about copyright law and the character. Until now, all but this final story had been in public domain since 2016 which the Conan Doyle Estate used as the basis to attempt to hold onto the copyright for the character, including suing Netflix over their Millie Bobby Brown-starring film Enola Holmes. That lawsuit was settled prior to this final book entering public domain, but now, all of the Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain.

What do you think about Sherlock Holmes entering public domain? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.