As the corporate business industry continues to evolve, understanding how long does copyright last can be a vital asset for legally protecting your work both in New York and nationally. Copyright law provides exclusive rights to the owner, including the right to reproduce the work, create derivative works, display and distribute it. Without this legal protection, the original creator of a work could potentially face both civil and criminal penalties if someone else copies, distributes, or displays their work without permission.

There are a variety of aspects of copyright law that could affect how long the protection lasts. This article will cover the most commonly asked questions regarding the duration of copyright protection and provide clarity on how New York specifically views the statute of limitations.

What is Copyright Protection?

Copyright protection is a legal shield established for the author or creator of an original work such as a book, a movie, painting, music, literature, architectural work, and even computer software. It allows the creator to keep that work exclusive to their own rather than being freely available to the public to replicate, distribute, or otherwise copy without their express permission.

Copyright protection provides exclusive rights to the copyright holder for a specified period of time. Copyright protects any expression of ideas that have been put to some form of tangible media; it does not cover the ideas themselves. That means that another party could potentially use the same idea, but it would have to be expressed in an entirely new way so the new expression of that idea is unique.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

Copyright protection in the United States, including in New York, typically last for the duration of the author’s life plus 70 years. This is known as the “life of the author plus 70” term.

This length of protection only pertains to works that are created after January 1, 1978. For works created before then, the copyright term could be 95 years from the day the work was published or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter. For works made for hire, which are works created by an employee as part of their job or a contractor for hire, then the copyright lasts 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation - whichever is shorter.

For works created on or after January 1, 1978, the copyright term becomes the life of the author plus 70 years. This includes works made for hire, joint works, posthumous works, anonymous works, pseudonymous works, and works from corporate authors.

Counterfeiting a Copyrighted Work

It's important to note that counterfeiting a copyrighted work is illegal even though the copyright has expired or been purposely withdrawn from protection. Counterfeiting is defined as the unauthorized reproduction and/or imitation of a copyrighted work and is punishable under criminal and civil laws.

Protecting Your Copyright

When a work is created, it is immediately granted copyright protection without the need for any registration or documentation. However, it is still recommended to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office to make your claim for copyright protection stronger in court. This provides additional protection for the original creator and will only strengthen your copyright duration.


Understanding copyright protection is essential to preserving the rights of the original author or creator. Knowing how long does copyright last can protect your work and from being exploited or counterfeited without your permission. It’s important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney about how to better protect your creations and to register it with the U.S. Copyright Office if possible.



Protecting Your Copyright,