Copyrights last a long time, but they do eventually expire. This is now the case with works first published in the U.S. in 1923, and previous.
The term of copyright can be confounding since there have been so many modifications to the term over the years. For this purpose, it is useful to consult a term chart. But while different works published or created at different dates may have different terms, the drop dead termination year for any work published or created by 1923, has now terminated as of New Year’s Day 2019.
In 1998, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the copyright term of all works not then in the public domain by twenty years from 75 years to 95 years. Thus, works in the public domain by 1998 consisted of works first published in 1922 and earlier (1922 + 75 = 1997). But works first published in 1923 received an extra 20 years of life — to 95 years — since their term had not yet expired as of 1998. Thus, these works have now termed out as of the close of the last day of 2018 (1923 + 95 = 2018).
Examples of top pop music hits from 1923 include:
- Yes! We Have No Bananas
- Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
- Carolina in the Morning
- That Old Gang of Mine
- Who’s Sorry Now
- St. Louis Blues
- Baby Won’t You Please Come Home?
- T’aint Nobody’s Business if I Do
- Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
- Barney Google
- The Murder on the Links (Christie) (Agatha Christie published several stories in 1923)
- Bambi (Salten)
- The Ego and the Id (Freud)
- Saint Joan (Shaw)
- A Lost Lady (Cather)
- The Watsons (Austen)
- Tarzan and the Golden Lion (Burroughs)
- Tulips and Chimneys (E.E. Cummings)
- Men Like Gods (Wells)
- The Rustlers of Pecos County (Grey)
- The Rover (Conrad) (this was Joseph Conrad’s last full novel)
- Sherlock Holmes: Adventure of the Creeping Man (Doyle)(Doyle published several Sherlock Holmes stories in 1923)
- The World Crisis, Volume II: 1915 (Churchill)
Next year at this time, all of the works created or published in 1924 will fall to the public domain.