There are many, many movies and TV shows coming out next year tied to various intellectual properties. These creations, from Batman to Boba Fett, are all protected in the United States under a variety of copyright laws rooted in the Constitution. But not everything is hammered down under the veil of intellectual property. Every year, new works enter the public domain, meaning that anyone can create works based on them, and this year’s crop stretches all the way to the Hundred Acre Wood.
As noted by the Public Domain Review, there is no universal rule for what will and will not fall under public domain each year. That’s because different countries have different laws. Some countries, like the United Kingdom and Russia, have laws that protect intellectual property for the term of the creator’s life plus 70 years. Others, like Canada and New Zealand, go for the term of a person’s life plus 50 years.
But the United States has more complex laws, thanks to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. The Extension Act, like its name suggests, allows for extensions to be placed on a copyright.
In 2022, works from 1926 are entering the public domain after a 96-year extension. Many of the additions are obscure, but there are some big names among the bunch. Here are a few selections:
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Winnie the Pooh is about to become the rock star of the public domain. The short story collection by British author A.A. Milne was a huge success at the time, with children falling in love with Pooh, Piglet, Eyeore, and Christopher Robin. However, this doesn’t mean you can suddenly sell t-shirts with Eyeore on them, asking if everyone else is having a fun time. Disney still very much owns the merchandising rights to Pooh, as proven in a 2012 lawsuit.
The Castle by Franz Kafka
One of Kafka’s three unfinished novels, The Castle tells the story of a land surveyor, named only K., who is summoned to a small town by its authorities. However, upon arrival, he finds that these authorities, who reside in the town’s castle, are mostly anonymous and have crafted a irrationally complex bureaucracy for every aspect of their citizenry’s lives. And what’s more, the townsfolk love it. At times surreal, The Castle shows Kafka’s expansive imagination working towards what he did best: finding a logical and sometimes horrifying conclusion.
It also inspired an accompanying album by the electronic group Tangerine Dream in 2013, which is pure vibes.
Faust, directed by. F.W. Murnau
One of the first great horror directors, Murnau is perhaps best known today for his 1922 vampire movie Nosferatu, but his 1929 adaptation of the story of the man who made a deal with Mephisto is just as impressive. The artwork and detail in Faust remain hypnotic to this day and stand as a shining example of German Expressionism, where the feeling evoked by the set and characters is as important as the script.
As director Shinji Aoyama once said when naming Faust one of his top ten movies of all time, “I always want to remember that movies are made out of the joy of the replica. The fascination of movies is not their realism, but how to enjoy the ‘real’. In that sense, I always have Faust in my mind as I face a movie, make a movie, and talk about a movie.”
And luckily, it’s already on YouTube. We won’t tell if you start watching it before January 1st.