How long does a Copyright last in the United States?

How long does a Copyright last in the United States?

In the United States, how long a copyright will last can be complicated. Different laws apply depending on the date the copyright was created, not the date the copyright was registered.
A copyright is created when a work is fixed in a tangible medium.

A key date to remember is January 1, 1978, the date the Copyright Act of 1976 took effect. In addition, several amendments enacted since January 1, 1978, affect duration.

A work that is created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression on or after January 1, 1978, from the moment of its creation and gives it a term lasting for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years.

For a “joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death.

For works made for hire and anonymous and pseudonymous works, the duration of copyright is 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.  This is true unless the author’s identity is later revealed in Copyright Office records, in which case the term becomes the author’s life plus 70 years.

Because of the long term of copyrights there are works created prior to 1978 that are still entitled to copyright protection in the United States but their term is governed by earlier Copyright statutes.

Copyright duration in the United States is a complicated subject. You should consult with an attorney if you have any questions about the duration of a copyright.