From: Steve Coker
Date: November 12, 1998

[Note: Changed by The Bono Copyright Act of 1998]

Works Originally Created On or After January 1, 1978 

A work that is created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after
January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and
is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus an additional 50
years after the author's death. In the case of "a joint work prepared by two or
more authors who did not work for hire," the term lasts for 50 years after the
last surviving author's death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and
pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed in Copyright Office
records), the duration of copyright will be 75 years from publication or 100
years from creation, whichever is shorter.

Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered
by That Date 

These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given
Federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works will
generally be computed in the same way as for works created on or after January
1, 1978: the life-plus-50 or 75/100-year terms will apply to them as well. The
law provides that in no case will the term of copyright for works in this
category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before
December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31,

Works Originally Created and Published or Registered Before January 1, 1978 

Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a
work was published or on the date of registration if the work was registered in
unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28
years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first
term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The current copyright law has
extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were
subsisting on January 1, 1978, making these works eligible for a total term of
protection of 75 years.

Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended the 1976 Copyright Act to
extend automatically the term of copyrights secured between January 1, 1964, and
December 31, 1977, to the further term of 47 years. Although the renewal term is
automatically provided, the Copyright Office does not issue a renewal
certificate for these works unless a renewal application and fee are received
and registered in the Copyright Office.

P.L.102-307 makes renewal registration optional. There is no need to make the
renewal filing in order to extend the original 28-year copyright term to the
full 75 years. However, some benefits accrue from making a renewal registration
during the 28th year of the original term.

For more detailed information on renewal of copyright and the copyright term,
request Circular 15, "Renewal of Copyright"; Circular 15a, "Duration of
Copyright"; and Circular 15t, "Extension of Copyright Terms."

U.S. Copyright Office
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

[email protected]

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