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last revised Nov. 27, 2001

definitionspurpose scope acquisitionlifetime of protection legal standards


  • Once a copyright expires, the work becomes part of the public domain
    • When works are in the public domain they may be copied freely
    • U.S. Government works are in the public domain
  • Today copyrights are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years
    • Works created by two or more authors extend to the life of the last author plus 50 years
  • If a company owns the copyright, it lasts for 120 years from the date of creation or 95 years from the date of publication, whichever is shorter
  • On March 1, 1989, the U.S. accessed to the Berne Convention and many of the statutory formalities have been lifted
    • Copyright notice, for instance, is prospectively eliminated as a condition to copyright protection
17 U.S.C. §302
Nimmer on Copyright §2.03

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