How Public Domain Literature Can Benefit Classroom Reading

What Has Changed?

Public Domain Literature can be a big benefit to classroom teachers if you know how to find great reads.

So what has changed in the world of Public Domain Literature? After a 20 year hold, 50,000 literary titles from 1923 were released to the public in 2020.

These volumes will now enter public domain use for the first time. This is great news for teachers looking for literary materials to use with their students.

Be sure to check out these great resources and see how you can use them in your own classroom.

What is the History Behind Public Domain Literature?

In the past, copyrighted works were held for a 75-year copyright protection term.

In 1998, Congress extended the copyright term for 20 years to works written between 1923 and 1977. This hold prevented specific titles from being released as public domain literature.

Congress placed this hold on these titles based on pressure from Disney. Disney wanted to keep their Mickey Mouse Steamboat Willy cartoon out of the public domain. This gave these works, a 95-year copyright protection term.

Disney faces the imminent release of the first Micky Mouse cartoon in 2024 – that is – unless another extension is granted to Disney to protect their copyright.

Since 1978, copyrighted works are protected for the term of the author’s life plus an additional 70 years. Time will tell what happens to public domain releases after 2024.

Stack of books with student hiding behind the books.
Teachers now have access to over 50,000 works that can now be used in the classroom.

What Newly Released Public Domain Literature Means for Teachers

This is great news for teachers!

As of this release, these newly released materials are now available to be read, adapted, and publicly performed in schools across the United States.

Teachers do not have to worry about royalties or copyright infringement when they use these resources with their students. As of this release, these materials are now available to be read, adapted, and publicly performed in schools across the U.S.

This includes books like Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and the Golden Lion; Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links and D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo.

This new release also includes great works from authors and poets including Robert Frost, Kahlil Gibran, Carl Sandburg and many other great artists.

This is a treasure trove of material. What ELA teacher wouldn’t love to use some of these works in the classroom?

Be sure to check this collection to see what might be interesting for your students.

In addition to written works, there are also musical works in this release. Artists such as Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, John Phillip Sousa, and many others are also now available for public domain use.

Music teachers may also want to take advantage of these newly released materials. You can find them on the Project Gutenberg website.

You May Also Like:

How to Improve Your Ability to Teach Reading

Teaching Listening Skills