Winnie-the-Pooh and around 400,000 early sound recordings enter public domain

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The cover art for Winnie-the-Pooh is by A. A. Milne.

The public domain in the US includes books, movies, and compositions from 1926. The works are free for everyone to copy, share, and build upon, according to the Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

A trove of around 400,000 early sound recordings comes with the usual list of books, movies, and compositions. Early sound recordings can be handled under federal copyright law. Today is the date that the copyright protections would end for recordings first published before 1923.

The advent of sound recording technology all the way through to early jazz and blues.

The recordings include everything from the advent of sound recording technology all the way through to early jazz and blues, according to the director of Duke's public domain center. There are recordings of works from The Sousa Band and others.

The public domain was stopped from receiving additional works until a couple years ago. The law was passed in 1998 to protect Disney, since the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons were just years from falling out of copyright. There is a chance that there will be another last-minute update to the law that will prevent those from entering public domain in 2024.

Disney will add some problems this year. Winnie-the-Pooh and Felix Salten's book, A Life in the Woods, head into the public domain today. Disney holds brand trademarks as well as copyright over its newer works. The public is free to use the appearance and characteristics of any of the characters in the original book, as well as to adapt it into a play or film.

You can do all of this without having to apply for a license from Disney. The public domain supports creativity. Tigger is still a Disney character because he wasn't introduced until a couple years later.

Disney has control over the brand, so it may still be difficult for remixers to navigate it. The piece explores how that could play out and explains how brands aren't allowed to use trademark to bully people out of accessing public domain properties.

When the earliest Mickey Mouse copyright expires in just a couple years, we could see a preview of how Disney will respond.