Releasing out-of-copyright material from the National Library

Every year on 1 January, creative works come out of copyright and into the public domain. Most of these works are now available for you to use freely without permission or restriction.

New National Library collection items in the public domain this year include unpublished works by authors who died in 1953, orphan works (i.e. works with no known author) created in 1953, and government publications created in 1973.

Prominent Australians

Prominent Australians who passed away in 1953 include:

  • James Henry Scullin (1876-1953), Prime Minister of Australia between 1929 and 1932. The Scullin papers consists of five boxes of material including correspondence, minutes, other memoranda, telegraphs, cables, reports, cuttings and printed items. Legislation on taxation, banking, patents, social services and post-war reconstruction are the dominant subjects.

  • Dora Wilcox (1873-1953), poet and dramatist. The collection contains diaries, manuscripts, correspondence, notes, typescripts, photographs, cutting books, cuttings, various certificates awarded to Wilcox and printed material relating to her work as a poet and playwright, as well as to her private life, including war news from both the First and Second World Wars.

  • Louis Lavater (1867-1953), composer and lyricist. Lavater’s unpublished works including music scores and writings will be entering the public domain in 2024. Note this only applies to works where Lavater is the sole composer, or where other contributors pre-deceased him.

  • Bernard O’Dowd (1866-1953), poet and parliamentary draughtsman. The Library holds 10 items related to O’Dowd, including printed poetry and letters.

  • King O’Malley (1858-1953), politician. The O’Malley papers are in two main parts – part one includes administrative and government business papers, and part two is made up of personal papers including correspondence, diaries, speech drafts and other miscellaneous printed material.

It is worth noting that the material entering the public domain from these individuals’ collections is where the copyright sat with the person themselves, such as previously unpublished letters written by them or diaries. These collections contain a vast array of other material, including government papers and collected material that may have other copyright holders.

Other highlights

A series of vintage advertisements and posters have also entered the public domain this year.

Man and woman in fancy dress in front of a train station at night, with text reading 'in town tonight ... by train'
Victorian Railways, In town tonight - by train, 1953, nla.obj-2132188918
Teenage girl and boy looking to the side and yelling each with a hand around their mouth. The stand in front of flags of various countries and a crowd with signs. Text at the bottom reads 'Youth! Prepare the IV World Festival of Youth and Students for peace and Friendship'
World Young Women's Christian Association & Organization of American States, Poster from Collection of international festivals posters [picture], 1953, nla.obj-133136790
Illustration of woman in a pink dress pushing a stroller with two children and surrounded by more children around her. They all appear happy and are wearing knit clothing. Text reads 'They're not all mine ... but they're all Sufex "Little Folk"' in the top left corner. In the bottom right corner text reads 'Little Folk Knitteds'
Front side: They're not all mine... but they're all Sutex 'Little Folk', 1953, nla.obj-2810842292  
A flyer with information about 'Little Folk Knitteds' including black and white illustrations and paragraphs of text
Back side: They're not all mine... but they're all Sutex 'Little Folk', 1953, nla.obj-2810842318

Copyright in Library Collections

More information about copyright in library collections is available – this includes advice on what to do if additional permissions are required before using items from the National Library collections.