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Public Domain Day 2024: 1928 content from Distinctive Collections

As the year turns, another set of materials has entered the public domain. In 2019 the first set of new materials entered the U.S. public domain in over 20 years – finally making older content freely available for reuse, remixing, and open digitization. This extension has continued apace – and so on this past January 1, 2024 most works published in the U.S. in 1928 entered the public domain. In anticipation of this yearly milestone, a section of rare and distinctive materials from the collection from 1928 were digitized in the fall 2023 semester and have now been published! More 1928 content will be added to the digital offerings throughout the year. And for more check out articles from past years documenting this annual celebration: 201920222023

This year newly available from Distinctive Collection are:

Front cover, How 7, v. I, no. 5, May, 1928

How7 (May, 1928 issue)

Front cover, Mystery stories, v. XIII, no. 1, January, 1928

Mystery Stories, v. XIII (all 3 issues)

Mystery Stories, v. XIV (just the first issue)

The Novel Hunter’s Year Book, 1928

p. [1], The Gaelic American – Vol. XXV, No. 15, April 14, 1928, Whole Number 1283

The Gaelic American 1928 (51 issues)

p. [1], Public Ledger, v. 184, no. 127, Sunday morning, January 29, 1928

Public Ledger (Philadelphia Daily Newspaper – 58 issues January / February 1928)

The Suburban, Wayne Times Edition (35 issues from 1928)

The “killer’s” protégé / by Robert J. Horton

Mrs. Elizabeth O’Brien Brownlow, plate, Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, v. 27

Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, v. 27 for the year 1928

Coffin Plate, In old New York; the Irish dead in Trinity and St. Paul’s churchyards

In old New York; the Irish dead in Trinity and St. Paul’s churchyards / by Michael J. O’Brien

Front cover, Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festival

Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festival : under the auspices of the National Museum, National Gallery and Public Archives of Canada, Chateau Frontenac, Quebec, May 24-28 1928

Plate, “Cathedral of Learning”, Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh spirit

Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh spirit : addresses at the Chamber of commerce of Pittsburgh, 1927-1928

Official jubilee volume; life and work of His Eminence D. Cardinal Dougherty and history of St. Charles Seminary. June 10, 1928

Plate, Red Barbara and other stories

Red Barbara and other stories : The mountain tavern, Prey, The oar / Liam O’Flaherty ; illustrated by Cecil Salkeld

Dance technique and rhythms; companion volume to A manual of dancing steps by Elsa Pohl, B.S.; music arranged by Carolyn Bergheim, B.A.

Front cover, Happy hours magazine, v. 4, no. 2, March-April, 1928, whole no. 20

Happy Hours Magazine v. 4

For more materials available elsewhere – as well as background on how copyrighted materials enter the public domain – see this article from the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University:


Mickey Mouse is (Kind of) Free: New Year Brings Public Domain Additions

Source: (public domain)


By Shawn Proctor

Public Domain Day 2024 was a big milestone. The longtime symbol of the tension between copyright and public domain, Mickey Mouse has entered the US public domain. So now creators can write a song about Mickey and Minnie or explore their adventures in novels, movies, and any other form they wish.

“Disney is both an emblem of term extension and its erosion of the public domain, and one of the strongest use-cases in favor of the maintenance of a rich public domain. Mickey is the symbol of both tendencies,” says Jennifer Jenkins, Director, Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, in her blog “Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle.”

But hold on one moment. Before you set your muse loose on those fabulous, famous mice, note that the only version this applies to is the Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy ones, which are black and white.

Other versions will have to wait, alas.

There is a massive list of novels, films, musicals, and sound recordings that have joined Mickey in the US public domain, and depending on your interests, there’s likely something surprising and exciting to discover. Tigger and Peter Pan? Now available! Works by Robert Frost, Virginia Woolf, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton, too.

And Batman fans should note The Man Who Laughs, featuring the inspiration for the Joker, is also in the public domain. Batman and Superman won’t join him until 2034 and 2035, respectively.


Shawn Proctor Head shot

Shawn Proctor, MFA, is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library.




Elementary, My Dear Sherlock: A Look at New Works Entering the Public Domain

By Shawn Proctor

While many were celebrating the beginning of a new year on January 1, the day also held another special meaning: Public Domain Day. Note: Falvey has added a host of new materials that have just entered the public domain! Learn more about them here:

Works from 1927, and before, now are available for writers, musicians, and cinephiles to share freely without permission or fees. They can be shown in theaters, added to online databases, and new works based on them created by modern artists.*

This day is not as popular with the rights holders, however, who would like to continue to profit from and control these artworks, well, forever it would seem. For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate has furiously fought to earn money from Sherlock Holmes, despite the fact that the legendary consulting detective has been in the public domain for years.

The final works just entered this year, in fact. But that didn’t stop the estate from trying to legally seek money from even very divergent stories, including the Enola Holmes Netflix series, adapted from the series by Nancy Springer.

And even Disney’s big, white gloves are beginning to slip away from its characters. Last year Winnie-the-Pooh became public domain…and, since, the main character of a horror film and a theme of a cell phone commercial. This year, the last of A.A. Milne’s stories vaulted into the public domain as well, an opening salvo for a showdown years in the making.

Yes…Mickey Mouse, that central figure of Disney’s company, will be US public domain in 2024. Will he finally escape Walt’s vault? And does that mean Mickey will be remixed, revised, and revitalized by new imagineers? Only time will tell.

Selected works that entered the public domain this year, according to the Center for the Study of the Public Domain:

Books: the last of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and the first Hardy Boys book The Tower Treasure by Franklin W. Dixon.

Films: Metropolis, the first “talkie” The Jazz Singer, and the first Oscar winner for outstanding picture Wings.

Music: “(I Scream You Scream, We All Scream for) Ice Cream,” “Funny Face” from the musical Funny Face, and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

Who knows what new creations these older works might inspire? We’ll have to wait and see!

*Note: I’m not a lawyer and this only applies to US copyright.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library.



Last Modified: January 18, 2023

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