Gaming Like It's 1926: Get Ready For Our Next Public Domain Game Jam!

from the that-time-of-the-year dept

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It’s that time of the year again! Four years ago, the US finally started adding older works back into the public domain after a decades-long period of time in which those cultural works were kept from the public (under dubious legal theories). It still remains somewhat ridiculous that we’re waiting 95 years for works to enter the public domain, but at least some things are coming into the public domain! For the past four years we’ve been celebrating newly public domain works each year by hosting a public domain game jam — and this year, it’s Gaming Like It’s 1926!.

There are plenty of interesting works to draw on, including:

  • Novels, short stories, and poems by Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, T. E. Lawrence, A. A. Milne, and Dorothy Parker
  • Art by Alexander Calder, Hannah Höch, Frieda Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, René Magritte, and Norman Rockwell
  • Films including silents Beau Jest and The General plus the first feature length Vitaphone films with Don Juan and The Better ‘Ole
  • Music by Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Al Jolson, Jelly Roll Morton, Victoria Spivey, and Sophie Tucker

Check out the Public Domain Review’s Countdown for more great works!

Separately, we would like to call attention to the fact that while music compositions (such as those above) go into the public domain if they were published in 1926, sound recordings are on a somewhat different schedule. It used to be that they were still under a complex set of state copyright protections, meaning some might not go into the public domain for another century or so, but thanks to the Music Modernization Act that was passed three years ago, some old sound recordings are also finally going into the public domain as well. Specifically sound recordings published before 1923 will now be in the public domain as of January 1st, 2022. While those are not technically works from 1926, we’re open to you making use of them in the same spirit as all those other 1926 works. If they’re entering the public domain on January 1st, they’re fair game.

You can sign up to join the jam now, but it doesn’t really launch until January 1st (because that’s when those works enter the public domain). If you want some inspiration for games, check out the games from the 1923, 1924 and 1925 contests.

As usual, we’ll be awarding prizes for the best digital and analog games in a variety of categories, and we’re super excited to see what creative ideas people come up with remixing and revitalizing these newly public domain works.

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Comments on “Gaming Like It's 1926: Get Ready For Our Next Public Domain Game Jam!”

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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Winnie-The-Pooh and Bambi

The first Winnie-The-Pooh story was copyrighted in 1926, as was the English version of Bambi in the US (the ninth circuit court ruled in Twin Books v. Disney that the book was copyrighted in the US in 1926 instead of 1923, otherwise we’d have it in the public domain a lot sooner. Oh well! Better late than never!).

It’s really awesome when two Disney characters enter the public domain in the same year, even if it’s not the big one from 1928.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You can’t wait for one to start claiming that none of this matters because the games aren’t multi-million dollar AAA shooters, and for the other to twist himself into a pretzel claiming that the games are stealing from him because they have more downloads on than his own poor efforts? Because that’s what will happen…

PaulT (profile) says:

A nice range of possibilities here I think, it’s worth mentioning that one of the Hemingways mentioned is The Sun Also Rises – which is the one that features the running of the bulls in Pamplona, which I’d guess would be fertile ground for a game on its own, as would many of the stunt sequences in The General. There’s also a movie of Gatsby that came out that year but hopefully people won’t just on that bandwagon again!

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