What’s Entering The Public Domain in 2022?

Every January a handful of previously “hands-off” works become public domain. 

For TheaterMakers, this means FREE ideas.

No hassle of finding out if you can get the rights. No fees. No agreements. No lawyers.

The whole purpose of copyright is to encourage creativity. Copyright (and it’s expiration) enables artists to build on the past through the re-imagining of old works.

Take it from the Supreme Court: “[Copyright] is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors by the provision of special reward, and to allow the public access to the products of their genius after the limited period of exclusive control has expired.” 

There you have it. Public domain is practically an invitation to make more theater. 

Last year several people took advantage of this genius when “The Great Gatsby” (1925) entered the public domain. There was a prequel called “Nick” and, of course, a Zombie version: The Great Gatsby Undead. Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine is writing a musical of the book. 

Mining works that have stood the test of time is a great way to find inspiration for the works of tomorrow. What books, movies, or music make you want to make more theater?

Here is the public domain class of 2022:


  • A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • Dorothy Parker, Enough Rope (her first collection of poems)
  • Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues
  • T. E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (later adapted into the film Lawrence of Arabia)
  • Felix Salten, Bambi, A Life in the Woods
  • Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam
  • Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • Edna Ferber, Show Boat
  • William Faulkner, Soldiers’ Pay (his first novel)
  • Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy
  • D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent
  • H. L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy


  • For Heaven’s Sake 
  • Battling Butler 
  • The Son of the Sheik
  • The Temptress (starring Greta Garbo)
  • Moana (docufiction filmed in Samoa)
  • Faust 
  • So This Is Paris (based on the play Le Réveillon)
  • Don Juan (first feature-length film to use the Vitaphone sound system)
  • The Cohens and Kellys 
  • The Winning of Barbara Worth 


  • “Bye Bye Black Bird” (Ray Henderson, Mort Dixon)
  • “Snag It” (Joseph ‘King’ Oliver)
  • “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (Irving Berlin)
  • “Black Bottom Stomp” (Ferd ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton)
  • “Someone To Watch Over Me” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin)
  • “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot (Giacomo Puccini, Franco Alfano, Giusseppe Adami, Renato Simoni)
  • “Are You Lonesome To-Night” (Roy Turk, Lou Handman)
  • “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along” 
  • “Ke Kali Nei Au” (“Waiting For Thee”), in 1958 renamed Hawaiian Wedding Songwith new lyrics (English) by Hoffman & Manning
  • “Cossack Love Song” (Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, George Gershwin, Herbert Stothart)

Over the next decade we will see more classics in the public domain, including Disney’s first Mickey Mouse short, Steamboat Willie (2024), Universal’s Dracula and Frankenstein (2027), and King Kong (2029). Here’s a list of what became public domain last year.


  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time
  • Franz Kafka, The Trial (in German)
  • Alain Locke, The New Negro 
  • Agatha Christie, The Secret of Chimneys
  • Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction
  • Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto, A Daughter of the Samurai


  • Lovers in Quarantine
  • Go West
  • The Merry Widow
  • Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman
  • Stella Dallas
  • His People
  • Pretty Ladies
  • The Unholy Three


  • “Always,” by Irving Berlin
  • “Army Camp Harmony Blues,” by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey 
  • “Jig Walk” and “With You,” by Duke Ellington
  • “Manhattan,” by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers
  • Works by “Jelly Roll” Morton, including “Shreveport Stomp” and “Milenberg Joys” 
  • Works by W.C. Handy, including “Friendless Blues”, “Bright Star of Hope” 
  • Works by Duke Ellington, including “Jig Walk” and “With You”
  • Works by “Fats” Waller, including “Anybody Here Want To Try My Cabbage” (with Andy Razaf), “Ball and Chain Blues” and “Campmeetin’ Stomp”

Want to know how we got our current copyright terms? Or why the public domain matters?

P.S. If you’re ready to speed things up but know you need some help, get on a call with my team. They’ll give you an honest assessment of where you are and if you’re ready to go to the next stage. Click here.

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