Weird Tales from the Public Domain: Freeing Culture from Corporate Captivity

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The mouse that became Mickey will finally be free of his corporate captivity as the copyright term of the 1928 animated Disney film, Steamboat Willie, expires along with that of thousands of other cultural works on the first day of 2024.

The year 1928 brought us a host of still relevant, oft-revived and remixed culture, from H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror story, “Call of Cthulhu” (originally published in Weird Tales; now currently a popular video game), to the Threepenny Opera, a critique of income inequality and the excesses of capitalism that is surprisingly on point for our current era.

And further, classic works of literature such as Orlando by Virginia Woolfe, Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, and Black Magic by Paul Mourad; children’s literature like House on Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne, which introduced the character Tigger, and Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág; movies like Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, and Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman; and music like Dorothy Field’s “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” and Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” will grow the rich set of materials that are freely available to all of us as part of the public domain.  

Join us for a virtual celebration at 10am PT / 1pm ET on January 25, 2024, with an amazing lineup of academics, librarians, musicians, artists and advocates coming together to help illuminate the significance of this new class of works entering the public domain!

Of course our program wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of Generative AI, which to some has become a new kind of Eldritch God unleashed upon humanity—a Chtulhu of sorts—out to alter or control human reality. New AI technologies have raised all kinds of questions about human creativity, and the various monsters we must vanquish in order to preserve it. We’ll get into all that and more in our panel discussion of AI, Creativity and the Public Domain.


This event is co-hosted by Internet Archive, Creative Commons, Authors Alliance, Public Knowledge, Library Futures, SPARC and the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

More ways to celebrate the public domain!

In addition to our virtual event on January 25th, we are also hosting an in-person party & film screening at the Internet Archive on January 24th for our Public Domain Remix Contest.

5 thoughts on “Weird Tales from the Public Domain: Freeing Culture from Corporate Captivity

  1. Julie Distressed

    It’s deeply worrying that the so-called “Intellectual Property” phenomenon is becoming not less but more widespread, more extreme, more entrenched. It’s one part of the “Lawfare” being waged by a particular self-serving right-wing tribe of ideological extremists: Predatory Rentiers, wielding bought-courts legislators to impose (violently if needs be) their Extractive-Economics hegemony.

    The arc of History is going the wrong way. The Bad-Guys have won. Predators vs Prey, Abusers vs Victims, Grabbers vs Sharers.

    There are some on the Planet looking to Liberate and Empower their fellowmen, but there are many many more looking to Entrap and Enslave and Restrict and Exploit. And we know which demographics got wealthy off stolen black bodies and forced labour.

    The monkey-hierarchy mind-games implicit in the current implementations of “Copyright” are a dangerous, toxic, cancerous and viral threat to Freedom, to Inclusion, and to Empowerment of the species as a whole.

    But there’s the nub: these law-facilitated delusional ideological extremists care not a jot for the species as a whole. Self, self, self. It IS evolution playing out as we watch.

    Utilising their beloved rigged-game “Law” their tribal and sociopathic creed/greed/and ego triumph every day of the week.

    “IP..” – yeah, as Vader might say, “the metastasis is strong with this one..”

    Thanks for your efforts IA, but it’s getting worse.

    Sudden ability to “have” Steamboat Willy without paywalls or hoops does not mean the future’s bright.

    Game Over! The ***ts have won.


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