How long does copyright last after an author passes away? You may be surprised to learn that it’s a little different from country to country. Luckily, I had some help from Ian Gibson, Esq., to answer this question inside my 2014 title How to Publish a Bestselling Book. Here’s an excerpt of his advice.
How Long Does Copyright Last?
“Pursuant to certain international treaties, the minimum duration of a copyright is generally life of the author plus 50 years. If the work is anonymous or pseudonymous and, thus, the life of the author cannot be determined, the duration of the work will be 50 years from its publication or, if unpublished, its creation. In the case of applied art and photographic works, the minimum term is 25 years from the creation of such a work.
Many countries exceed these minimum standards. In the United States, for example, a work originally created on or after January 1, 1978, by a single author is ordinarily given a term for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. For more information specific to Canadians, see Kim Staflund’s earlier book, How to Publish a Book in Canada . . . and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!.”
More Valuable Advice from Ian Gibson, Esq.
When it comes to copyright, four primary questions seem to arise most readily: What exactly is copyright? How do I obtain it? How do I protect it? How long does this protection last? This book provides an elementary introduction to international copyright. In it, Ian Gibson provides you with a solid starting point of reference that answers all of these questions. In fact, he even answers this: How does working with a publisher in another country affect my copyright?
That said, for those of you who wish to delve deeper into your own country’s copyright laws, or who require formal legal advice about a specific book project or publishing contract, Ian recommends you consult an experienced attorney licensed in your area. Don’t rely solely on the advice you read here.
Related reading: Estate Planning Checklist for Authors
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