2023 Public Domain Expansion & Escape Rooms

Copyright law in the United States is messy… but once a work ages out of copyright, it becomes part of the public domain, and thereby, free to use.

As of January 1, 2023 a slew of music, books, movies, art, and radio shows copyrighted in 1927 will enter the public domain in the United States.

Lots of these probably aren’t relevant to escape room creators, but some most certainly are.

Book cover for, Hardy Boys, "The Secret of the Old Mill," shows the boys sneaking in an old wood building, peering through a crack in the floor.

A Few Words of Caution

I’m not a lawyer and I’m not your lawyer. Please seek appropriate legal council when making decisions involving intellectual property rights. This is especially important because characters whose works are only partially in the public domain are more challenging to use.

I will add, please keep in mind that copyright law and public domain work differently around the world… so if you’re outside of the US, please go seek out region-specific sources for this kind of information.

Key Works for Escape Room Creators

There are some interesting and notable movies entering the public domain like Metropolis… but for escape room purposes, I think that the Metropolis aesthetic might be more interesting than the story itself.

Instead, consider these:

There are many more works entering the public domain, but these seem especially relevant to our community.

For More Information

I have referred to these two pieces while writing this. I strongly recommend reading both. And again, please speak to your lawyer before making legal decisions.

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