Copyright Safeguard

Copyright Safeguard™

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

For works created in the United States on or after January 1, 1970, the rules are simple:

  • If the work was created by an individual author, the work is protected for the lifetime of the author, plus 70 years. (The rights are inherited by the author's heirs.)
  • If the work was created collaboratively by two or more authors, it is protected for 70 years after the last surviving author's death.
  • If the work was created as a work for hire, it is protected for 95 years after publictaion, or 120 years after creation, whichever is shorter.

Copyright Protection on Older Works

If the work was created in the United states prior to January 1, 1970, the rules are considerably more complicated. The duration of the copyright depends on the type of work, when the work was created, whether it has been published, whether the copyright was registered (and renewed), and whether a copyright notice was affixed to the work.

There are also special rules for works first published outside the United States.

There is an excellent explanation of copyright terms and expirations maintained by Cornell University.