Celebrating the Public Domain

Fascinating Rhythm!

Celebrating 1924 in Music, Art, and Literature

Welcome to the University Libraries' celebration of music, literature and art in the public domain!

The works featured on this page have all been protected by copyright since they were published in 1924, meaning you would need the creator's permission to copy them or share them online. But copyright does eventually end, and for all works published in 1924, they officially entered the public domain this year. That means anyone can use them however they want. Students can perform songs published in 1924 and publish a video of their performance on social media or use an image as part of marketing for an event. Teachers can use creative works in the public domain in their classes, and students can use them as part of their assignments, all without worry about getting permission first. To celebrate, the Libraries invited University faculty and students to perform or read from famous 1924 works, including Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin and Mamanita by Jelly Roll Morton.

Video Credits

  • Mamanita by Jelly Roll Morton, performed by Asst. Professor Aaron Hill & Austin Turner, student
  • Poems by Marianne Moore, read by Brendan Johnston, PhD candidate
  • 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, read by Assoc. Dean Darrell Lockhart
  • A reading and discussion of A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, by Brendan Johnston, PhD candidate
  • Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, performed by Prof. James Winn & Jonathan Baker, student
  • What'll I Do by Irving Berlin, performed by CJ Greer, musical theatre vocal teacher

Copyright is important as it allows creators to benefit from the works they make. However, nothing is created in a vacuum, and all creators are inspired in some way by previous works. The public domain is an important part of copyright by guaranteeing that eventually everyone can benefit from creative works. Just think about famous works that are adaptations of other works already in the public domain:

  • West Side Story (based off of Romeo and Juliet)

  • The vast majority of Disney movies (Cinderella, Mulan, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, etc.)

  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (based off of Pride and Prejudice)

  • 12 Years a Slave (based off the book of the same name)

These works would not have been possible without the public domain. 

Public Domain Resources

Fortunately for us, more museums and other groups are sharing public domain works online, making it easy for anyone to find them. 

An illustration of a striped cat beating a drum from a book of hours

Creative Commons

Allows you to search a number of sites, including various museums, for items in the public domain or with a Creative Commons license.

A black and white image of a woman in a hat next to a french bulldog

Library of Congress

Collections that it believes are in the public domain.

A person wearing a plague mask and a hat in a pink dress

The Public Domain Review

An online journal dedicated to discussion of items in the public domain.

Sheet music by Emily Josephine Troup which includes a score for voice and piano

International Music Score Library Project

Great for finding music scores in the public domain.

A watercolor sketch of a pink and green flower

Digital Public Library of America

Connects you to the online collections of libraries across the United States. Not all items are in the public domain.

Illustration of three horseback riders racing on a red background

Learn More

Learn more about copyright or contact your subject librarian with copyright-related questions.

Learn more about copyright

Contact your subject librarian