Special Feature: Some famous works freely available on public domain

Kismet (1943): The Ashok Kumar film introduced bold themes like an anti-hero character, a single pregnant girl to the 1940s Indian audience. It is also notable to feature the dual role concept, a first of its kind for Hindi cinema. 'Kismet' was a tremendous success at the box office, being declared an 'All Time Blockbuster' and ran in the theatres for 3 straight years. Ashok Kumar, came to be addressed as Indian cinema's first Superstar after the film's success.

A still from 'Kismet'
A still from 'Kismet'

The movie also attracted controversy in the form of the patriotic song 'Door hato O Duniya walon, Hindustan hamara hay', which translates to, "Step away, People of the World, Hindustan is ours", penned by Kavi Pradeep. A negative reference to Japan was used in a lyric from the song, "Tum na kisike aage jhunkna, German ho ya Japani", "Don't you bow in front of anyone, be it the Germans or the Japanese". Although it slipped past heavy British censorship earlier the English soon realised their mistake and wanted to ban the film. An arrest warrant was issued for the film's lyricist Pradeep, who had to go underground to avoid arrest.

This history-making film is now available for free viewing on many online video websites like YouTube. (Click here to view the film). Video courtesy YouTube.

Charlie Chaplin's 'The Kid' (1921): Late English comedy legend Charlie Chaplin's works, in which he mostly stars as his famous 'Tramp' character are enjoyed and loved by many. This film, which is his first full-length film as a director is considered one of the greatest films in cinematic history. It's about a tenement tramp (Chaplin) who cares for an abandoned child, but events put that relationship in jeopardy. American actor Jackie Coogan, who went to star in many accalimed films and TV shows stars in 'The Kid' as the adopted son of Charlie Chaplin's character. 'The Kid' in 2011 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." (Click here to watch the film).

 Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan (L) in a still from 'The Kid'. Pic Courtesy/YouTube
Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan (L) in a still from 'The Kid'. Pic Courtesy/YouTube

Apart from 'The Kid' Chaplin's notable comedy shorts like 'The Tramp' (1915), 'Police' (1916) and many others are also freely available for viewing on YouTube and many other online video sources. (Click here to view 'The Tramp'), (Click here to view 'Police')

Tom & Jerry cartoon shorts (1940s): Cartoon world's most famous and everyone's favourite cat and mouse duo created by cartoonists William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (known collectively as Hanna-Barbera) and directed by Fred Quimby have been enjoyed by audiences around the world on Home Video for many years now. With the advent and subsequent spread of the internet age, these timeless classics are available for free viewing to the general public on various online video websites. The most notable of these cartoons include...

Tom and Jerry cartoon 'Puss Gets the Boot' (1940)
Pic courtesy/YouTube

Puss Gets the Boot (1940): The cartoon marked the debut of Tom and Jerry. Incidentally Tom was referred to as Jasper and Jerry as Jinx in this short. It was also nominated for an Oscar but did not win. (Click here to watch the full cartoon. Courtesy YouTube)

Tom and Jerry in 'The Night Before Christmas' (1941)
Pic courtesy/YouTube

The Night Before Christmas (1941): This amazing Christmas-themed short has Tom chasing Jerry around the house, which is aptly decorated for Christmas and contains a lot of quirky presents. The most notable sequence is Tom trying to run-over Jerry with a toy train after tying the mouse on the tracks. The short was nominated for the 1941 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons and was released one day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, making it the last Tom and Jerry pre-war cartoon. (Click here to watch the full cartoon. Courtesy YouTube)

Tom and Jerry in 'The Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943)'
Pic courtesy/YouTube

The Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943): The cartoon released during the height of the Second World War is notable for it's patriotic flavour. Using both Tom and Jerry as an allegory for warring nation it shows the cat and mouse duo chasing each other in a pseudo-warfare style, and makes numerous references to World War II technology such as jeeps and dive bombers. The Yankee Doodle Mouse won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, making it the first of seven Tom and Jerry cartoons to receive this distinction. (Click here the watch the full cartoon. Courtesy YouTube)

Did you know? During British rule in India, Tom & Jerry cartoons were screened at movie theatres before the feature presentation.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland #1) (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland #2) (1871): Lewis Carroll's famous books are available to read for free and without any legal obligations on a wide variety of media. The books are currently included as free additions to many popular online text reading apps available on android and apple platforms.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland #1) (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland #2) (1871)
Pic courtesy/Project Gutenberg

The amazing story of the girl Alice and her adventures in Wonderland after 'tumbling down the rabbit hole' in pursuit of The White Rabbit only to meet an assortment of quirky characters in a strange fantastical land has been adapted on film and television numerous times, most notably an animated series version, that was dubbed in Hindi and broadcast on Doordarshan in the early 1990s, Walt Disney's 1951 version and the 2010 film 'Alice in Wonderland' starring a ensemble cast, which included Hollywood screen stalwarts like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and many others. The characters Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts and many other characters immortalised in the story can be freely read over and over again for free thanks to public domain. (Click here to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland #1 and Through the Looking Glass)

Treasure Island (1883): Robert Louis Stevenson's epic pirate fantasy 'Treasure Island' that introduced readers to amazing swashbuckling fiction, which included buccaneers, buried gold and the iconic pirate antagonist Long John Silver, with his trademark parrot and pegleg.

Treasure Island (1883)
Pic courtesy/Project Gutenberg

The book, which is now available for free on several public domain-supported website along with printed hardcover books has been adapted on the screen numerous times over the years. Like the 'Alice' books it is also availble in free-to-download e-book format. (Click here to read 'Treasure Island')

What is Public Domain Day?
Public Domain Day is observed on the 1st of January, ever year to mark the the expiration of copyright protection terms on works produced by authors who died several decades earlier. Thousands of works like books, films enter the public domain, their content no longer owned or controlled by anyone, but rather becoming a common treasure, available for anyone to freely use for any purpose.

What is Public Domain?
The copyright protection terms are typically described as the life of the author plus a certain number of years after his/her death (or pma: post mortem auctoris). In many countries, including the USA and European Union member countries, the copyright terms expire 70 years pma, while in other countries, including Canada and New Zealand, they last "just" 50 years pma.

When those terms eventually expire and a work enters the public domain, it becomes fully available so that everyone - without any need for prior authorization - can access and use it for any purpose whatsoever.
Information courtesy:

Did you know?
The copyright expiry timeline for India is 60 years from publication. This includes posthumous works, photographs, cinematograph films, sound recordings, works of public undertakings, and works of international organisations.

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