In 1998, a controversial US Act extended the original 75 year copyright expiry period for films (and other works) to 95 years.
This extension resulted in a 20 year freeze on films entering the public domain, which is when they become free to distribute and download. That wait ended on 1 January this year (dubbed Public Domain Day), resulting in an influx of new copyright free films.
Recently added films to the public domain include Harold Lloyd’s Safety Lost! (featuring the Iconic clock-face scene see Image below) and Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim. See the full list at List of American films of 1923.
While the UK has its own copyright laws, any film entering the public domain in the US Is bound to become available on download sites globally including the Internet Archive.
This treasure trove of digitized content is not as easy to navigate as some other sites (and we’ve always found it rather slow), but its Movies section contains a huge collection of free classic films (including the aforementioned Lloyd and Chaplin comedies), comedy shorts, documentaries and more. Once you’ve found a title to download, look for the Download Options section at the bottom right of the window here you’ll find all the available download formats.