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Celebrating the Public Domain

This guide showcases materials held at the University of Rhode Island Libraries that have become part of the public domain in 2019.

On January 1, 2019, works published in 1923 entered the public domain.
This is the first time in 20 years that new works -- such as texts,books, articles, art works, films, and music -- have entered the public domain!

What is the public domain and why was there a 20-year freeze?
Works that are in the public domain have no copyright restrictions. They may have once been protected by copyright, but the term of copyright has expired. In 1998, Congress extended the term of copyright in the United States by 20 years, which was retroactive to existing copyrighted works and led to a 20-year freeze on new works entering the public domain. 

The public domain now consists of works published in 1923 or earlier.
Anyone can freely copy, share, translate, and remix these works without having to ask permission. From now on, each year will bring new works into the public domain -- 1924 works in 2020, 1925 works in 2021, and so forth.

The books listed below are available at URI. Some of the items are available only in University Archives and Special Collections.


photograph of display case containing books in the public domain

Display of books that have entered the public domain as of 2019.

H.P. Lovecraft in the Public Domain

Did you know that Providence’s own H.P. Lovecraft published four original stories in 1923?

  • “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” in Weird Tales, vol. 2, no. 4
  • “Hypnos” in The National Amateur, vol. 45, no. 5
  • “The Lurking Fear” in Home Brew, vol. 2, no. 6 & vol. 3, no. 3
  • “What the Moon Brings” in The National Amateur, vol. 45, no. 5

There is some question about whether copyrights for Lovecraft’s works were renewed under the terms of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allowed an extension of copyright renewal for works published before January 1, 1978.  

Either way, the four stories above are certainly in the public domain now!


Books in the public domain: The World of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse and Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf


Picture of Carl Sandburg's story "Rootabaga Pigeons"

A reprint of Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Pigeons

Curated by Karen Walton Morse, Julia Lovett, and Amanda Izenstark, April 2019. Created with assistance from Jay Forcello '21.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.