With the turn of the New Year, the original Winnie the Pooh book has entered the public domain alongside classic works like Felix Salten’s Bambi, A Life in the Woods and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. These titles were originally published in 1926 and have reached the end of the 95-year period of copyright protection afforded to works in the US. Legally speaking, this means the original source material for everybody’s honey-obsessed bear is free to be shared, performed, reused, repurposed, or sampled without permission or cost.
Only the first collection of Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne’s short stories published in 1926 is entering the public domain; he also published The House at Pooh Corner in 1928, introducing the character Tigger. Disney acquired the film and merchandising rights for Pooh back in 1961, so they own the copyright for the familiar cartoon versions.
However, US copyright law would seem to allow anybody from Disney’s competitors like DreamWorks to a budding filmmaker to put their own spin on Winnie and friends. Disney is infamous for its deep pockets and armada of lawyers, though, so it’s unclear how the House of Mouse would respond. In 2010, they emerged victorious from a lengthy legal battle over merchandising royalties.
Poetry collections like The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes and Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker also became public property with the turn of the New Year, along with silent films like Battling Butler starring and directed by Buster Keaton, The Temptress starring Greta Garbo, The Son of the Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino, and For Heaven’s Sake starring Harold Lloyd.
Per Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, roughly 400,000 music recordings published before 1923 also entered the public domain this year. Included among the recordings is music from Ethel Waters, Mamie Smith, Enrico Caruso, and Fanny Brice.
Read more at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain here.