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.

  • Definition of a Copyright
    A copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to authors of "original works of authorship." This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other creative works. Material not protected by copyright (or otherwise protected) is available for use by...
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  • Works Protected by Copyrights
    A copyright gives certain exclusive rights to persons who create original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Copyrightable works include the following...
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  • Advantages of Registering Your Copyright
    The advantages of registering a copyright include the following:
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  • Copyright Holders
    In general, only the creator (the "author") of an original work (or someone to whom the copyright has been lawfully transferred) can register a copyright. However, if the author prepared the work within the scope of his or her employment or if the work falls into certain special categories and was...
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  • Scope of Copyright Protection
    Copyright protection generally gives the copyright's owner the exclusive right to do the following:
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  • Obtaining Copyright Protection
    The securing of copyright protection is frequently misunderstood. Copyright is secured automatically when a work is created. A work is "created" when it is fixed into a book, tape or electronic medium for the first time. For example, a song can be fixed in sheet music, a digital tape or both. No...
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