How Long Does a Copyright Last

How Long Does a Copyright Last

The duration of a copyright depends upon when the work was created and is subject to change by Congress.

Works Created On or After January 1, 1978

For works created on or after January 1, 1978, the law provides automatic protection from the moment of its creation and gives it a term lasting for the author’s life, plus an additional 70 years. For works prepared by two or more authors (i.e. a joint work) who did not work for hire, the term is the life of the last surviving author plus seventy years. For works made­for-hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is disclosed in Copyright Office records), the term is for ninety-five years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

Works Created Before January 1, 1978

There are special rules for works that were created prior to January 1, 1978, depending on whether they were published, whether they were copyrighted, and whether the copyright was renewed.

If you created a work before this date, but did not publish it, or published it after this date then it is protected for your life plus seventy years.