Copyright was designed to provide for the protection of an author's work for a fixed amount of time. The original statute provided fourteen years of copyright protection.
Current copyright law provides protection for the life of the author, plus 70 years for an individual. Corporate entities receive over 100 years of protection. Congress has extended the length of copyright many times over the years. This variance presents a challenge when trying to determine the copyright status of older works
Cornell University's copyright duration and public domain chart is updated annually to provide copyright status guidance on various types of materials. The American Library Association's digital copyright slider tool may also be helpful as a starting point.
This guide is designed to share information on copyright and related topics. This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.
Copyright is controlled by laws passed by Congress, cases heard through the judicial system as well as international treaties that Congress has entered into with other nations such as the Berne Convention.
These laws also attempt to define copyright infringement. Infringement is using someone else's protected work without their permission. Oftentimes the word infringement is associated with terms such as piracy, illegal downloading or file sharing, bootlegging or simply theft. T
Other countries' copyright laws can be found at the United Nations UNESCO International Copyright Law Collection.