Thousands of public domain sound recordings coming in 2022
Under the Music Modernization Act of 2018 (see section 1401 in the bill), all sound recordings published before January 1, 1923 will enter the public domain on January 1, 2022. This means that over 10,000 sound recordings from the Library of Congress will be free to use and reuse in Citizen DJ. Furthermore, for each year between 2023 and 2046, recordings older than 100 years will enter the public domain. After 2046 we will need to wait 10 years for pre-1956 recordings to enter the public domain under current law.
This is significant because until 2022, no sound recording has entered the public domain due to copyright expiration. This is because before February 15, 1972, sound recordings (unlike most other material like sheet music, photography, and books) weren't protected by federal copyright law. They were protected by state law, which means that they were protected indefinitely. And prior to this bill, the vast majority of sound recordings would not have entered the public domain due to copyright expiration until 2067.
What will be released in 2022?
Most significantly, the majority of recordings in the Library's National Jukebox collection will enter the public domain. The Jukebox includes more than 10,000 acoustical recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925 and are now owned by Sony Music Entertainment. The collection contains a mixture of popular music of that era (blues, ragtime, jazz, folk) and spoken word such as comedic skits, speeches, and readings. To get a sense of how much material this is, it would take approximately 20 continuous days to listen to the Jukebox material that will be available to use and reuse in 2022.
Until 2022, feel free to browse and stream these recordings and imagine what new work you can make once they become free to use and reuse.
Check back here on January 1, 2022!