A copyright litigation lawyer can help you stop infringement of your copyrights and recover damages. A copyright protects original works of authorship, whether published or unpublished, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. A copyright exists whether or not it is registered. However, registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. And if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in court.
For works created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright lasts for the authors life plus 70 years. Works made for hire or anonymous works are protected for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. For works created before January 1, 1978 but not published or registered before that date, the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047.
For works created and published or registered before January 1, 1978, the copyright term was 28 years from publication with a copyright notice or date of registration if unpublished, with an option to renew for another 28 years in the last year of the first term. In 1976, Congress extended the renewal term to 47 years, for a total of 75 years. In 1998, Congress further extended the term by 20 years, for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of 95 years.
An author or his or her heirs can terminate the transfer of a copyright in certain circumstances, depending on the law in effect at the time of the copyright. Under the previous law, the copyright in a work reverted to the author, if living, or if the author was not living, to other specified beneficiaries, provided a renewal claim was registered in the 28th year of the original term. The copyright in works eligible for renewal on or after June 26, 1992, will vest in the name of the renewal claimant on the effective date of any renewal registration made during the 28th year of the original term. Otherwise, the renewal copyright will vest in the party entitled to claim renewal as of December 31st of the 28th year. The present law drops the renewal feature except for works already in the first term of statutory protection when the present law took effect. Instead, the present law permits termination of a grant of rights after 35 years under certain conditions by serving written notice on the transferee within specified time limits. For works already under statutory copyright protection before 1978, the present law provides a similar right of termination covering the newly added years that extended the former maximum term of the copyright from 56 to 95 years.