How long does a copyright last?
Generally, the copyright for any work lasts as long as the author of that work is alive, plus an additional 70 years. However, the details of how long a copyright lasts are actually more complicated, and fall into four general categories:
(1) Works created after January 1, 1978 (regardless of when, or if, they were published).
The current rule is that a work is protected from the moment it is created, and it is protected for the duration of the author’s life plus 70 years. Where a work has joint authors, copyright protection lasts for the duration of all of the authors’ lives, plus 70 years from the death of the last author.
There are two major situations where this author’s-life-plus-70-years rule does not apply. If a work is an anonymous work or a pseudonymous work, the copyright will last for 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever date expires first. The same rule applies to works made for hire - their copyrights last for 95 years after publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first.
Finally, the term of protection always runs to the end of the year. Thus, if the 70 year anniversary of the author’s death falls in June, the work in question will be protected through December of that 70th year anniversary, not June.