Copyright Basics, Part III: How long does copyright protection endure?

One of the most confusing parts of publishing for many authors is copyright laws. To address the common copyright questions I am often asked, I will be writing a copyright basics series every week for the month of September. See the end of the post for links past posts you may missed, and be sure to check back each week for answers to more of your copyright questions.

How long does copyright protection endure?

This depends on when the work was created and published:

Works Originally Created on or after January 1, 1978

A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. In the case of a joint work prepared by two or more authors,  the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered by That Date

These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978.

Works Originally Created and Published or Registered before January 1, 1978

Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a work was published with a copyright notice or on the date of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, for a total term of protection of 75 years.

It also worth noting that some publishing companies have their own policies in regards to publishing works in the public domain. Be sure to contact your self-publishing company for detailed information.

 To learn more about copyright law, visit copyright.gov.

Copyright Basics, Part I: What is copyright and who can claim copyright?

Copyright Basics, Part II: What works are and are not protected?

Copyright Basics, Part III: How does one secure a copyright and is it required for publication?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

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