How Long Is a Copyright on a Book

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 16th, 2023

Are you an author or a publisher seeking to protect your book with copyright? Navigating the world of copyright can be daunting, but it’s crucial to know how it works, how long it lasts, and what rights it grants you. Our comprehensive guide will answer all your questions about book copyrights and ensure that you are well-informed. Read on to protect your literary assets effectively.

Understanding the duration of a copyright is vital for authors and publishers alike. In the United States, if your book was published on or after January 1, 1978, the copyright lasts for the duration of the author’s life and an additional 70 years thereafter. For books published between 1964 and 1977, the copyright duration is 95 years from the date of first publication.

book lot on table

For books published before 1964, the standard copyright period is 75 years from the time the work was first recorded or performed. However, if the book was first published before January 1, 1978, the copyright protection period is extended to 95 years from its first publication date. This difference in duration serves to protect older works while maintaining the balance between public access and author rights.

While most countries abide by rules similar to those in the U.S., copyright laws can vary internationally. To protect your work effectively, you’ll need to look into the copyright regulations in each jurisdiction where your book is sold or distributed. This is especially vital for authors who publish their works globally.

Securing copyright provides authors with exclusive legal control over their book’s reproduction, distribution, public performance, and adaptation. This safeguard not only prevents unauthorized copying but also allows the author to license their work for other uses, such as turning the book into a movie or using it for educational purposes.

Most copyrights are tied to the life of the author plus 70 years, but there are exceptions. Anonymous and pseudonymous works have a protection period of 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. Works published between 1964 and 1977 also have a 95-year copyright duration. Sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, are protected for 75 years from the date of their first recording or performance.

To fortify your book against potential infringement, it’s prudent to register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. The registration process involves several steps, including filing an application and paying a nominal fee. Once your book is officially registered, it grants you legal standing to sue in the event of infringement, providing an extra layer of protection.

In most cases, renewing or extending a copyright isn’t an option. However, there are specific conditions that can impact the copyright duration. For example, works published between 1964 and 1977 can have up to 95 years of protection. Knowing these nuances is crucial for long-term planning, especially if you have a portfolio of works spanning various publication dates.

What is Fair Use, and How Does It Apply to Books?

Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes like education, news reporting, and criticism. While the doctrine aims to balance public and private interests, it’s not a blanket exemption. Courts evaluate multiple factors to determine if a use qualifies as fair, making it essential to consult legal advice if you’re unsure about the application of fair use.

Violating copyright laws can lead to severe penalties, both civil and criminal. Monetary fines and legal action could jeopardize your financial stability and tarnish your reputation. As an author or publisher, it’s your responsibility to stay informed about copyright laws to avoid inadvertently infringing on someone else’s work.

Understanding International Copyrights

Global copyright laws are primarily based on the Berne Convention. However, each country has its nuances, requiring authors to understand the specific laws applicable to each territory their book enters. Multiple international treaties and agreements exist to protect authors, so familiarize yourself with these to maximize your international protection.

Protecting Your Book from Piracy and Plagiarism

Piracy and plagiarism can significantly impact your income and reputation. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office serves as a strong deterrent against these offenses. Digital rights management (DRM) technology can further secure your digital copies, restricting unauthorized access and copying.

When a book’s copyright expires, it becomes public domain material, meaning anyone—including the original author—can use it freely. While you can’t prevent others from copying or adapting it, you can continue to market and sell your original works.

What Happens to Book Rights After an Author’s Death?

Upon an author’s passing, copyright protection remains in effect for 70 additional years. The author’s heirs can manage these rights, including granting permissions for adaptations or new editions. This ensures that an author’s legacy continues to generate value for their family or estate.


Understanding copyright protection is invaluable for any author or publisher. It not only safeguards your creative work but also provides avenues for its lawful utilization. With this guide, you’re now equipped with the knowledge you need to navigate the intricacies of copyright law, both domestically and internationally.


Editorial Staff

Our writers, editors, content managers, and SEO specialist. We all take part in crafting amazing articles. We spend hours ensuring that each article is based on facts, researched, and thorough. You'll never want to click the back button to look for more answers other than here!