Copyright term of protection refers to the duration of legal protection granted to creative works, ensuring that creators and their works are safeguarded from unauthorised use.

It establishes the time frame for which the owner of the copyright is given exclusive rights to manage the distribution, reproduction, and public exhibition of their work.

The concept of copyright term plays a vital role in balancing the interests of creators and the public by providing incentives for innovation while eventually allowing works to enter the public domain.

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Copyright Term

The term of protection refers to how long an author is granted legal protection for their work.

It specifies how long the original creator has the right to control how widely their work is shared and used.

Copyright protection periods can be shorter or longer based on a number of criteria. These criteria are the nature of the work, the nation of origin, and the time of its production or publication.

In many nations, copyright protection lasts for the lifetime of the author plus a predetermined number of years after their passing.

The work becomes freely usable by everyone once the copyright period has passed and it has entered the public domain.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain

Copyright term refers to the duration of time during which creative work is protected.

It gives the copyright holder the sole authority to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display the work.

The type of work, the nation, and the date of production or publication are some examples of variables that affect the copyright period’s duration.

The moment the copyright period ends, the work enters the realm of the public domain.

The public domain consists of works that are no longer protected by copyright or whose rights have been voluntarily relinquished.

The work is permissible to use, adapt, and distribute without permission or paying royalties if it is in the public domain.

As it provides unlimited access to cultural works, the public domain is crucial for innovation, creativity, and education.

It offers a wealth of resources that the general people, artists, and scholars can build upon, modify, and share.

Works in the public domain foster cultural heritage, encourage collaboration, and promote the advancement of knowledge and creativity.

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Copyright Duration and Orphan Works

In the vast realm of older copyrighted works that have faded from the limelight, it often becomes a challenging task to track down the rightful copyright owners and obtain the necessary licenses for their use.

These works, known as orphan works, present a significant issue due to the extended duration of copyright protection and the absence of requirements for original owners to renew or register their copyrights.

The plight of orphan works arises from the difficulty, and in some cases, the impossibility, of determining who holds the specific rights needed for their legal use.

To address this concern, several jurisdictions have recognised the need for reform in their copyright laws.

These reforms aim to allow the utilisation of orphaned works under certain circumstances, provided diligent efforts have been made to locate the copyright holders.

Span of Copyright Protection for Literary, Musical, and Artistic Works (excluding photographs)

The term of copyright protection for literary, musical, and artistic works, excluding photographs, is determined by specific criteria.

The protection begins at the moment of creation and extends throughout the author’s lifetime.

After the author’s demise, the copyright remains in force for an additional 60 years, starting from the year of the author’s death.

In cases where the work has not been published, performed, offered for sale, or broadcast during the author’s lifetime, a different provision comes into play.

In such instances, the copyright protection continues for a period of 60 years, commencing at the end of the year in which any of these acts relating to the work take place.

These provisions ensure that creators enjoy exclusive rights to their works for a substantial period, fostering a conducive environment for artistic expression and encouraging the preservation of cultural and creative endeavors.

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Tenure of Copyright for Cinematograph Films, Photographs, Computer Programs, and Sound Recordings

The duration of copyright protection in India for cinematograph films, photographs, computer programs, and sound recordings follows specific guidelines.

Once these works are made available to the public with the consent of the copyright owner or published, their protection extends for a period of 60 years from the end of the year in which they were first made available.

The protection lasts for 60 years from the end of the year the works were created in circumstances where they haven’t been made public or published.

The protection of copyright for sound recordings remains in effect for a period of 60 years starting from the conclusion of the year in which the recording was first made available to the public.

Copyright Term of Protection for Different Countries

The duration of copyright protection varies from country to country.

The Berne Convention, an international copyright treaty, requires countries to provide at least 50 years of copyright protection after the death of the author.

Several countries have exceeded the minimum copyright terms.

Here is a table of copyright durations by country:

CountryCopyright Duration
United StatesLife of the author plus 70 years
European UnionLife of the author plus 70 years
CanadaLife of the author plus 70 years
MexicoLife of the author plus 100 years
JapanLife of the author plus 70 years after publication
ChinaLife of the author plus 50 years
IndiaLife of the author plus 60 years
BrazilLife of the author plus 70 years

It is crucial to remember that these are merely guiding principles.

In some nations, there can be particular exceptions or extensions that apply.

Always seek legal advice if you have questions regarding a work’s copyright status.

Here are some more considerations about the length of copyright:

  • No matter if a work is published or registered, copyright protection starts as soon as it is created.
  • Copyright protection is automatic; no registration is required.
  • Copyright protection can be transferred to another party, such as through an assignment or a license.
  • Copyright protection can be enforced in court.

You might be able to sue for damages if you think your copyright has been violated.


The term copyright plays a vital role in safeguarding intellectual property rights and promoting creativity and innovation.

It provides legal protection to original creations, ensuring that creators have exclusive rights over their works for a specific period of time.

The inclusion of copyright notices and the requirement for tangible or physical forms help establish ownership and enforceable rights.

Joint authorship and unknown authorship scenarios present unique challenges, but copyright laws strive to address them.

The duration of copyright varies across countries, influenced by various factors. These factors are the country of origin, the death of the author, and publication.

While extensions of copyright terms aim to protect creators, balancing the interests of society and the public domain is essential.

Copyright duration calculators aid in determining the length of protection, and promoting compliance and respect for copyright laws.

Efforts to combat illegal content and piracy are ongoing to protect the rights of intellectual property owners and foster a fair creative ecosystem.

Understanding the history and evolution of copyright law is crucial to appreciate its significance in preserving and rewarding human creativity.

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What is the public domain?

The public domain refers to creative works that are not protected by copyright law or whose copyright has expired or been forfeited.

These works are freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute without permission or payment.

What is the copyright term in India?

In India, the copyright term for literary, artistic, musical, and cinematograph works is the lifetime of the author plus 60 years from the year of their death.

For photographs, computer programs, and sound recordings, the copyright term is 60 years from the year of publication or making it available to the public.

What happens after the copyright expires in India?

Once the copyright expires in India, the work enters the public domain, and anyone can freely use, reproduce, and distribute it without seeking permission from the original copyright owner.

It no longer enjoys legal protection under copyright law.

Can copyright be renewed in India?

No. In Indian legislation, there is no provision for the extension or renewal of copyright. The rationale for this is that the validity period is already set for 60+ years.

What is the ‘duration of copyright’?

The duration of copyright is the period in which creative work is safeguarded by copyright law.

It varies depending on the type of work and the country’s copyright legislation.

The duration of copyright is typically calculated from the moment of creation or publication, and it is noted by the law to determine the rights and restrictions associated with the work.

What does the duration of copyright depend on?

The nature of the work, the legislation of the nation where the copyright is asserted, and the author’s passing are some of the variables that affect how long a copyright lasts.

Each country has its own regulations and guidelines that determine the specific duration of copyright protection for different types of intellectual property.