Sherlock Holmes stories, Metropolis film, and others — a list of works entering public domain in 2023

On Public Domain Day – January 1, 2023 – copyrighted works from 1927, including certain Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and the final Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, the German science-fiction film Metropolis entered the public domain in the United States. Under the public domain, they will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon, announced by the Center for the study of the Public Domain.  

Public Domain Day is an observance of when copyrights expire and works enter into the public domain. The celebration of a Public Domain Day starts in 2004 by Wallace McLean, a Canadian public domain activist, with support for the idea echoed by Lawrence Lessig.

All the works were supposed to go into the public domain in 2003, after being copyrighted for 75 years. But before this could happen, Congress hit a 20-year pause button and extended their copyright term to 95 years.


  • These are just a handful of the thousands of books entering the public domain in 2023:
    • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
    • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
    • Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
    • Countee Cullen, Copper Sun
    • A. A. Milne, Now We Are Six, illustrations by E. H. Shepard
    • Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
    • Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women (collection of short stories)
    • William Faulkner, Mosquitoes
    • Agatha Christie, The Big Four
    • Edith Wharton, Twilight Sleep
    • Herbert Asbury, The Gangs of New York (the original 1927 publication)
    • Franklin W. Dixon (pseudonym), The Tower Treasure (the first Hardy Boys book)
    • Hermann Hesse, Der Steppenwolf (in the original German)
    • Franz Kafka, Amerika (in the original German)
    • Marcel Proust, Le Temps retrouvé (the final installment of In Search of Lost Time, in the original French)


  • Among the most popular films entering the public domain are:
    • Metropolis (directed by Fritz Lang)
    • The Jazz Singer (the first feature-length film with synchronized dialogue; directed by Alan Crosland)
    • Wings (directed by William A. Wellman)
    • Sunrise (directed by F.W. Murnau)
    • The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller)
    • The King of Kings (directed by Cecil B. DeMille)
    • London After Midnight (now a lost film; directed by Tod Browning)
    • The Way of All Flesh (now a lost film; directed by Victor Fleming)
    • 7th Heaven (inspired the ending of the 2016 film La La Land; directed by Frank Borzage)
    • The Kid Brother (starring Harold Lloyd; directed by Ted Wilde)
    • The Battle of the Century (starring the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy; directed by Clyde Bruckman)
    • Upstream (directed by John Ford).


  • Songs from Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Irving Berlin top the list of music now free to use:
    • “Potato Head Blues and Gully Low Blues” by Louis Armstrong
    • “Black and Tan Fantasy and East St. Louis Toodle-O” by Bub Miley and Duke Ellington
    • “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Irving Berlin
    • “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” from the musical Good News
    • “Funny Face and ‘S Wonderful” from the musical Funny Face. 

Please note that this applies only under the US law; the copyright terms in other countries are different.