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Published February 14, 2023

Catherine Cavella, ESQ.

For most people, the flip of the calendar from 2022 to 2023 means another celebration of time passing and another year to make the most out of our lives. In the world of intellectual property, January 1st marks a different kind of holiday, if you will.


Every January 1st is Public Domain Day – a day when a whole new set of works have their copyright expire and enter into the public domain. This allows artists and creatives to use the source material in these works to create new versions of those IPs or to include them in their work moving forward. To get an idea of how the public domain impacts intellectual property, let’s first look at a very notable Public Domain Day 2022.


Public Domain Day 2022


Most years have a few notable works enter the public domain on January 1st but last year included some particularly notable works. You may have seen the insane trailer for a Winnie the Pooh horror movie floating around the internet last year. That’s because the copyright for A. A. Milne’s 1926 book Winnie the Pooh expired on January 1, 2022 – allowing for new … and creative … forms of the character to be used.


The same can be said for Bambi, a Life in the Woods by Felix Salten. Another horror take on a classic children’s story is coming after the novel’s copyright expired at the beginning of last year.


So, what’s in store for this year?


All Original Sherlock Holmes Stories Are Now Public Domain


The story of detective Sherlock Holmes has been told and retold over the years. You’ll notice those representations are often very similar with Sherlock being a bit of a recluse with incredible detective skills. Now, we may see the kinder and more personable side of the classic character.


That’s because the final works from The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had their copyright expire on the first day of 2023. These stories show Sherlock as a more social and kind person to those around him.


This showcases the power of copyrights as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his estate have been able to protect this kinder, gentler version of the character even after the character as a whole fell into the public domain.


The Hardy Boys 1, 2, & 3


For the very first time, some of the Hardy Boys stories written by Franklin W. Dixon (a pseudonym used by the team of writers behind the books) are part of the public domain. These works are well known by readers and have actually graced the television screen before – but only because the estate and organizations that owned the rights to the books licensed them out in exchange for a share of the profits (a “royalty”).


Holding a copyright allows you, the owner, to control how the work is represented by others and also allows you to profit from these works. The Hardy Boys are a perfect example, having had six television adaptations, multiple video games, and even a comic series.


What’s important to note, however, is that only the stories and characters that appear in the first three Hardy Boys books published in 1927 can be used. All others will still need to be licensed in order to appear in future works.


Other works that entered the public domain this year include:


  • Metropolis (film written by Thea von Harbou)
  • Chicago (play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins)
  • Ice Cream (I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream) (song written by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert A. King)
  • The Gangs of New York (book written by Herbert Asbury)


This all becomes possible because of U.S. copyright law. Copyrights don’t just end when you pass away. Copyrights pass the protection to your estate and last for several decades depending on when the work was created or published. For works created before January 1, 1978, copyrights will generally last for 95 years and become public domain on the first day of the 96th year after the creation of the work. For works created or published after January 1, 1978, copyrights will generally last for the life of the author plus 70 years.


It’s essential to be aware of the nuances of these intellectual property protections and to take advantage of them when you create something worth protecting. At IP Works Law, we can Power Your Ideas and help you protect them long into the future. Contact our team today.

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Since 1992, Catherine Cavella, Esq. Her focus on Trademark Law and Copyright Law for the last few decades gives her deep insights into the fundamental principles behind the rules. Catherine regularly writes about new developments in trademark law, copyright law, and internet law.