As a result of the Copyright Extension Act of 1998, most copyrights for works published after January 1, 1978 last for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, in the following circumstances, the copyright lasts between 95 and 120 years, depending on the date the work is published:
the work belongs to the author’s employer under the work made for hire law
the work was commissioned under a work made for hire agreement (and fits within one of the categories of works that qualify for work made for hire treatment), or
the author publishes and registers the work anonymously or under a pseudonym.
After a copyright expires, the work goes into the public domain, meaning it becomes available for anyone’s use.
For works created before 1978, the duration times are different:
If the work was published before 1923, it is in the public domain (available for use without permission).
If the work was published between 1923 and 1963 and not renewed (see duration of copyright), it is in the public domain.
If the work was published between 1923 and 1963 and it was renewed, the copyright lasts 95 years from the date of first publication.
If the work was published between 1964 and 1977, the copyright lasts for 95 years from the date of publication.
If the work was created but not published or registered before 1978, the copyright lasts at least until December 31, 2002, if the work remains unpublished, or until December 31, 2047, if the work is published before December 31, 2002.
Related terms: duration of copyrights; pseudonym, copyright under a; Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.