Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bo's bLAWg - The Copyright Term Follow Up


MJ Bogatin (“Bo”) of Bogatin, Corman & Gold, is an Arts and Entertainment Attorney in San Francisco.  He is also Co-President of California Lawyers for the Arts. Bo is available to answer some of your questions surrounding the business of Art Licensing. - THANKS BO!


Dear Bo, in last month’s bLAWg you indicated that works published before 1923 are in the Public Domain.  Does that mean that as of January, works published before 1924 will be in the Public Domain? Rick

That would seem to be logical, Rick, but that is not presently the case. 1923 will remain the cut-off date for automatic Public Domain for two more years under the Copyright Act.

Under the 1909 Copyright Act, the copyright term was 28 years with the right to be renewed for a second 28 year term.  Under the 1976 Copyright Act, the one that set the ‘new’ ‘life of the Author plus 50 year term,’ came into effect January 1, 1978.  As of Jan. 1978, the ‘oldest’ copyrights that could still be in their second renewal term under the 1909 Act must have been registered in the first instance in 1923 or later.  For example:  A work that was first copyrighted on January 1, 1923, and renewed between January 1, 1950, and January 1, 1951, would formerly have fallen into the public domain as of January 2, 1979.

Last month I mentioned Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998.  Besides extending the existing copyright term from 50 years after the Author’s death to 70 years, a provision of the CTEA extended the duration of copyrights in their renewal term at the time of the effective date of this Act to 95 years from the date such copyrights were originally secured.

Since the ‘oldest’ renewal registrations under the 1976 Act were from 1923, the CTEA extended those copyright terms to a maximum of 95 years, through 2018.

Accordingly, no new works will fall into the public domain until 2019, when works published in 1923 will finally be deemed to have expired. THEN Rick, you will get the ‘rolling’ year-by-year expansion of Public Domain.  In 2020, works published in 1924 will expire; in 2021 all works published before 1925 will have to have expired, and so on.  That is, unless the Copyright Act is amended again to alter these expectations!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is not intended as legal advice. Because the law is not static, and one situation may differ from the next, we cannot assume responsibility for any actions taken based on information contained herein. Also, be aware that the law may vary from state. Therefore, this website cannot replace the advice of an experienced attorney. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. MJ Bogatin, Bogatin, Corman & Gold,

Have a legal question? email it to I will forward it to Bo. It might be a blog post! You can search "Bo's bLAWg" to read more posts. I am looking forward to your comments and thanks for sharing this great information on social media.

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