Updated: We sang it!
Celebrate the entry of everything first published in the U.S. in 1923 into the public domain this January 1st by singing, “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” a 1923 novelty song that is no longer protected by copyright as of midnight on New Year’s Day! The tune is a send-up of a greengrocer one of the songwriters met, who started every sentence with “yes,” even when the answer was “no.”
With the January 1, 2019, expiration of 1923 copyrights in the U.S., anyone can perform that song without license or fee (and even release a recording for free or charge for it), along with thousands of other tunes (mostly forgotten) from that year.
I’ll be leading at least one chorus among New Year’s celebrants at my house at a midnight past midnight Eastern, and then post it to social media.
(I recommend avoiding Louis Prima’s and similar versions that play up a jokey ethnic style; the song’s original lyrics celebrate inventive use of language, rather than ridicule the speaker!)
(Audio recordings have a very different set of rights, recently modernized by Congress in a remarkable show of compromise among musicians, companies, and political parties. The above 1923 recording remains under separate copyright protection—called a “phonogram” right—for several years longer. If I’ve done my math correctly, a 1923 recording expires January 1, 2024, or to the end of the calendar year 100 years from its initial protection.)