It’s Free Literary Estate! Which Works Enter the Public Domain in 2022?

2 minute read
Author: Jo

Every year, on the 1st of January, something magical happens… We get free rein to bastardise, adapt, rewrite, mutate, maim and lovingly emulate a fresh batch of works that enter the public domain as their copyright expires, making them free to share, reuse and repurpose in any way we choose.

Copyright laws differ around the world — some have a term of 50 years following the artist’s death, some are as long as 70 years — but when that time is up, those works become, well, free literary estate.

For the UK, most of the EU, Russia, and South America, we get access to works by people who died in 1951 (life plus 70 years).

For Canada, New Zealand, and most of Asia and Africa, we have all the works published by people who died in 1971 (life plus 50 years).

And for the United States, we are bequeathed all works published in 1926 plus all pre-1923 sound recordings.

A full list can be found on good old Wikipedia, but here are some literary highlights:

  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Land by Vita Sackville West
  • Color Struck by Zora Neale Hurston
  • The works of Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • The Castle by Franz Kafka
  • Estrangement by W. E. Yeats
  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne (though interestingly, the trademark red t-shirt is property of Disney so your Pooh will have to be naked)
Gif of winnie the pooh with a rumbling tummy, pulling his tshirt down
  • Mary by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Plumed Serpent by D. H. Lawrence
  • Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker
  • Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner
  • The works of Louis Armstrong
  • The Land of Mist by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence
  • The works of Jim Morrison
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Gif of Poirot looking pensive

Maybe you know some of them well, maybe some are completely new to you. Either way, you have a readymade reading list of potential adaptations at your fingertips!

Maybe you have a modern day Poirot concept in mind…

Maybe a science fiction remake of Soldier’s Pay

Or the perfect ending to Kafka’s unfinished The Castle

You are free to experiment, and if nothing else it’s a great batch of writing prompts for whenever you need some inspiration fora brand new story.

So go forth and bask in the public domain. ‘Tis full of old tales ready for the re-making.

Gif of two men, one in a pair of sunglasses, one in a bouffant blonde wig, in front of a police car. One says: "Didn't we do a rewrite?"
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