Now that we know what types of works are copyrightable, how to take a work from copyrightable to copyrighted, and the importance of registration, the next question is, how long will the copyright protection last?
Over this country’s history, the duration of copyright protection has continuously been extended. Currently, all works created after January 1, 1978 by “identified natural persons" have a shelf life of the author plus 70 years. Therefore, if a person finished writing a book today at the age of 35, and subsequently lived to be 80, copyright protection would last until the year 2126.
That all seems pretty easy. But don’t be fooled: there are other factors. The rules can change if the work was finished before 1978 or is a “work-for-hire." Furthermore, as is common in life, the playing field is not always level. For instance, the copyright on Disney’s Steamboat Willie starring Mickey Mouse should have expired in 1984. However, the copyright has been extended several times effectively delaying the copyright’s lapse until 2023. The moral? Don’t try to do this without a lawyer.
To this point, we’ve discussed what types of work are copyrightable, how to take a work from copyrightable to copyrighted and the benefits of registration, and lastly, the duration of copyright protection. This concludes our discussion of copyrights, and tomorrow I’ll take up trademark law.
Steve Rensch and Zach Price
3850 E. Baseline Rd. Suite 105
Mesa, AZ 85206