What is the Duration of a US Copyright?

What is the life of a copyright?  Well, copyrightable works in the United States that were created on or after January 1, 1978, have a term that begins at the moment of its creation and lasts for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years. Yes, that’s right! Copyright protection lasts for a long time! Imagine that you are a 30-year-old who writes a book. If you live until you’re 90-years-old, the copyright protection for your book would last for a total of 130 years! Compare this to patents which typically have a life of 20 years from the date of the initial patent application, and trademarks which have a potential for unlimited duration.

Now, for a “joint work prepared by two or more authors,” the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death.

It’s also worth mentioning that for works made for hire and anonymous works, the duration of the copyright is simply 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.  But, if at some point the anonymous author’s identity is revealed in copyright office records, the term becomes the author’s life plus 70 years.

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