Facebook pixel
Skip to Main Content

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

Copyright stamps

It’s always important to understand the terms of copyright protection, and the advantages copyright protection may have. The time period for copyright is one of the most essential terms to understand when filing for a copyright. The time period for how long a copyright may last has always changed throughout the course of the years. Congress deals with the law of copyright and they decide the protections along with the time limitations. Congress decides the protected period.

Copyright law can be very complex and have multiple factors to consider. That is why it is important to hire a skilled copyright attorney to determine how long your protections may last. Failing to renew copyright in time may lead to losing the intellectual property and potentially losing out on future profits.

What is a Copyright?

A copyright protects creative expressions and ideas. Although it may be simple to describe what a trademark or a patent may protect, a copyright does not have to be a tangible object. A work becomes copyrightable the minute it is fixed in a tangible form. It is published when the copyright becomes available for distribution to the public. The publication date can occur immediately after the creation date. Sometimes, the publication date could even occur a couple years or even a couple decades after the creation date depending on when the author wants to release it to the public.

How Can I File a Copyright?

Although it may sound simple, filing a copyright involves several complicated hurdles one must jump through in order to get maximum protection for their work. The copyright is filed with the US copyright office. Although an attorney is not required, our skilled attorneys advise that someone with a legal degree assist with the process to ensure a smooth transition. After the copyright is registered, the US copyright office will mail a certificate of registration within 8 to 12 months. During the process of applying for the copyright, a complete copy of the copyrighted work must be given to the office.

There several different factors to consider when determining how long a copyright may last.

These factors include:

  • Who the copyright was created for
  • Whether the author is alive
  • Who the author is and how many authors there are

Examples of copyright include:

  • Sound recordings
  • Lyrics
  • Sheet music
  • Movie
  • Novel
  • Painting
  • Poem

How Long Does a Copyright Last?

How long a copyright lasts depends on multiple factors. For example, when the copyright was first published is an initial factor to consider. For those works that have been created after January 1st 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. However, this time spent may change depending on the work.

Different Copyright Periods

There are difference copyright protections depending on the type of work being protected. Below is a list of examples where the time period changes depending on the work.

  • An anonymous work is one where the author has not been identified. An anonymous work could last for a term of 95 years from the year of publication or 120 years from the year of creation.
  • A work for hire is a copyright work that has been created as a result of an employer and employee relationship. The employee creates work for the employer, and the employer owns the copyright. This is usually done through an employment agreement sign into by both parties. Work made for hire also endures a term of 95 years after its publication or a term of 120 years after its creation.
  • Joint author copyrights are protected for the life of the surviving author plus 70 years. Joint author copyrights are those in which two or more authors have come together to create the single copyright.

The History of Copyright Protection

At first, copyrights published from 1909 to 1921 work were protected for 28 years from the date of publication. Once the 28 years pass, you could renew it for another 28 years. For copyrights that were published between 1922 and 1963, there was an additional 67 years where you could renew after the 28 years is up.

Do I Have to Renew the Copyright?

As of today, it is not required to renew your copy right. For any copyrights created after January 1st 1978, there is no renewal requirement. It automatically renews. But, for those copyrights that have been registered prior to January 1st 1978, renewal registration is optional.

Could I Use Someone Else’s Copyright?

Before using another’s copyright, our copyright attorneys advise that one ask for permission from the true owner. If you don’t have permission, you could end up getting sued from the copyright owner. However, there are certain statutes in place that allow people to use another’s copyright. It has to fall under the fair-use argument. The fair use defense is brought up when an author wants to use portions of copyrighted material when making a commentary or for criticism.

  • For example, when a news article wants to quote specific portions of a book, they could under the fair-use defense.
  • When a school teacher quotes another’s copyrighted material to teach the class, the school teacher will most likely not be liable since the fair use defense applies.
  • When is student quotes another’s copyright and uses it for satire to make fun of the artwork, the fair use defense applies and the student will not be held liable.

What is the Difference Between a Copyright and a Patent?

The common misconception is that a patent and a copyright are the same, but there are some slight differences between the two. A copyright protects the type of authorship. Examples, include books and paintings. However, a patent protects inventions. This could include the invention of glasses. Ideas are not copyrightable. But you can file a patent for an idea of a future invention. For more information about patents, please contact one of our attorneys.

To better determine what rights you as a copyright owner may have, please contact hour attorneys at Heidari Law. Our skilled copyright attorneys will work to protect your copyright and make sure that all the requirements have been met in order for you to continue ownership over your intellectual property. There are several hurdles to jump through while obtaining a copyright, therefore it is important to follow through with all the steps correctly. A simple mistake from a non-experienced attorney could cost not only the ownership but future profits as well.

We have offices conveniently located in every major city such as Los Angeles, Fresno, Irvine, Las Vegas, etc. to better suit your needs. We understand how important it is owning the intellectual property of your idea, and so we will take every necessary legal process to make sure that you are protected.

***Disclaimer: This page is created by Heidari Law Group for educational purposes. This article provides a general understanding of the law. It does not provide specific advice. By using this site and reading through this page, there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and any member of Heidari Law. Further, due to the constant change of the law, some parts of the information above may no longer be good law.

Sam Heidari

Free Case Evaluation 24/7

Contact Us




Rear-End Accidents


Sideswipe Accidents

$1.1 Million

Head-On Accidents

$2.0 Million

T-Bone Accidents

$1.0 Million

Single-Vehicle Accidents

Case Results

$3.3 Million

Motorcycle Accident

$2.0 Million

Car accident

$1.4 Million

Brain Injury

$1.1 Million

Motor Vehicle Accident





Sam Heidari

Sam Ryan Heidari

Sam Heidari is the founding principal of Heidari Law Group, a law firm specializing in personal injury, wrongful death, and employment law with offices in California and Nevada. Sam Heidari has been practicing law for over 11 years and handles a wide range of cases including car accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination, and product liability. The Heidari Law Group legal firm is known for its comprehensive approach, handling cases from initial consultation through to final judgment. Sam Heidari is dedicated to community involvement and advocacy for civil liberties.

Contact Us

24/7 Free Case Evaluation