It’s been a while since any forms of art have entered the public domain. The general rule, at least until 1998, was that media and entertainment became free for educational use after 75 years from the original release. United States Congress changed the law, however, placing a 20-year hold on copyrighted material. This prolonged the entering of new culture into the public domain, but, as of 2019, the 20 years are over and a slew of entertainment, from books to film, have entered the public domain at last, some of which are time-tested classics. These are the 3 best films to finally enter the public domain this year.
1. The Pilgrim
Charlie Chaplin was one of the greatest comedians of all time. Directed by the man, himself, The Pilgrim follows a convict who escapes from prison to find himself in a small, Texas town and unknowingly impersonating a preacher. The Pilgrim marks the final collaboration between Chaplin and long-time friend, Edna Purviance, who also co-starred in Chaplin’s The Kid and The Immigrant. This year, Chaplin fans will be glad to find The Pilgrim entering the public domain for free, educational use.
2. Little Old New York
Based on a play written by Rida Johnson Young, Little Old New York features an Irish girl who comes to New York City to procure a portion of her deceased brother’s wealth. Starring Marion Davies, this film was one of the top-ten movies of 1923 and was produced by William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for another classic film, Citizen Kane. Little Old New York is a profound silent drama and has recently entered the public domain.
3. Our Hospitality
Buster Keaton shows off the silent acting that made him famous in this black-and-white flick. Our Hospitality was one of the first silent comedy films to incorporate general slapstick comedy devices into the film’s narrative. Some say that this is the film that made Keaton’s career, calling it a masterpiece of silent comedy. Though Chaplin might have gained far more fame and publicity, Buster Keaton proves his worth in Our Hospitality, as one of the best silent actors of the 1920’s. This movie has also entered the public domain, and is sure to see plenty of new exposure in years to come.