HOW LONG DOES A COPYRIGHT LAST?

The Copyright Act includes a number of rules governing the duration of a copyright term. A significant change to the Copyright Act occurred in 1998 with the enactment of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the copyright in all subsisting works for 20 years. Thus, in general terms, under the present Act, if a copyrighted work is created by an individual author or group of co-authors, the copyright extends for the life of the last surviving author plus 70 years. With respect to a work that obtained statutory copyright before January 1, 1978, if the copyright has been renewed, the total duration of statutory copyright is now 95 years from fi rst publication or earlier registration. However, if the copyrighted work is a “work made for hire,” the copyright extends for 95 years from the year of fi rst publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires fi rst. The difference between an individual author and a work made for hire is discussed under the next section, “Who Owns a Copyright?”