Skip to main content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

MPAL Exhibits 2018-2019: Public Domain Songs from 1923

Documents exhibits at the Music and Performing Arts Library during the 2018-2019 academic year.

About the Exhibit of Public Domain Items from 1923

January 1, 2019 marks the first time in 20 years that several published works will enter public domain. Because these works are in the public domain, people can now create new derivative works based upon them (such as cover songs), and reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform them.  These and other items published in 1923 were supposed to go into the public domain in 1999.  However, in 1998, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act went into effect and extended the term of copyright an additional twenty years, making the term for most works to be the life of the author plus seventy years or ninety-five years for works made for hire and anonymous/pseudonymous works.


This particular exhibit highlights music from the Music & Performing Arts Library’s Historic US Sheet Music Collection that was published in 1923 and is now in the public domain.  One of the most notable songs in the exhibit is "Yes, We Have No Bananas" by Frank Silver & Irving Cohn.  Other titles include "Barney Google" by Billy Rose and Con Conrad and "Hotsy Totsy Town" by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby & M.K. Jerome.

Pictures from the Public Domain Songs from 1923 Exhibit

Music Copyright Books

The items in the exhibit can only be viewed in the Library and cannot be checked out. However, the following resources about music and copyright are available for check out at MPAL.